To the wine producers of Mzansi, the industry is finally starting to show signs of life after two years of Covid-19-induced stress, uncertainty and loss. With plenty of rainfall in 2021, wine grape growers are holding thumbs that 2022 will bring an exceptional harvest. And although the season is off to a late start, farmers are pleased with their “promising and healthy” crops hanging (almost) ripe and ready on the vines.
Etienne Terblanche, a viticulturist from wine industry body Vinpro, says South Africa’s wine grape harvest of 2022 is looking promising after many months of unfavourable conditions for the industry.
According to the season’s first crop estimate, the harvest is expected to amount to 1,42 million tonnes. It is 80 000 tonnes above the industry’s five-year average of 1,34 million tonnes, albeit 2,2% smaller than the 2020 harvest, which came in at 1,45 million tonnes.
Favourable weather conditions
Terblanche tells Food For Mzansi that moderate weather conditions during the initiation of grape bunches led to well-defined bunches, which are already clearly visible in the field.
“Cold and rainy conditions during winter dormancy gave rise to uniform budding and even shoot growth,” he says, adding that ample water was stored in the soil and irrigation dams to support further growth.
Younger vineyards will contribute a smaller than usual yield to the total harvest, due to conservative plantings in 2018, which was the final year of the now-past drought.
“At this early stage the crop of 2022 appears to be in line slightly lower than the excellent 2021 harvest, while clearly higher than the 2015 –2018 drought-stricken harvests.
“Continued cool conditions will likely result in a later start of harvest than usual, while we can look forward to qualitative wines with ample freshness in the glass,” he says.
Many wine lovers can thus expect their normal wine tastings to go as hoped while, for winemakers, it is exciting news considering the many months of closure and uncertainty.
Winemakers excited about 2022
Shawn Mathyse, winemaker at Ken Forrester Wines, says the industry is starting to show some life following months of stress on the workers and uncertainty for farmers.
“I think it’s going be a great year. Quality fruit are hanging! And no alcohol bans in sight. The local support has been awesome, we are slowly passing the negative effects Covid had on the industry and we are now able to breathe a sigh of relief.”
Franschhoek wine farmer Paul Siguqa says he is hopeful for a great year ahead.
“This year will surely be an exciting year, simply because the curfew has been lifted. This means longer hours in our restaurants and farms and ultimately our products will be consumed for much longer.
“Covid-19 had a very negative impact on our sales and production, so we are hoping that this year we will have lesser restrictions so that we can also grow our businesses,” he says.
Siguqa adds that it is important for the industry to grow and pick up the pieces following two years of setbacks. Reviving the sector will create jobs and rejuvenate the economy, he believes.
“We want to have a cellar on our farm so that we can increase our output. Also, we are hoping to introduce new bottles on the market for our clients.”
Siguqa urges all role players to work together to ensure that there is sustainability in a sector hard hit by the pandemic.
A return to normal harvests
KWV winemaker Izele de Klerk tells Food For Mzansi that the season is about two weeks later than in the drought years of 2015 through 2018. “But when you think [back to] before the drought years, it is actually normal. We are returning to a normal harvest after the drought years.
“We had a lot of rain in 2021, so let’s hold thumbs for an exceptional harvest. But like I always say, expect the unexpected. We will never know what this specific harvest will bring us,” she says.
A fairly large harvest can be expected, with the overall quality looking good.
Farmer and winemaker Philip Jonker agrees that, that while crops are late this year, his harvest is looking promising and healthy.
“The summer has been relatively cool and wet so far, with many overcast days. The vineyards are still a vibrant light green colour and quite vigorous,” he says.
According to Jonker, his harvest is likely to kick off with chardonnay or cap classique by the end of January.
Wine enthusiast Christina Mooki tells Food For Mzansi that she is looking forward to visiting her favourite wine tasting spots again.
“One hopes that in the coming year we will have less restrictions because, truth be told, our economy needs to be revived, especially the hospitality industry which carries a lot of our brothers and sisters off the streets through job creation.
“We want to [enjoy] those wines after a very rough day at work and not be told that they cannot be sold. The economy needs to be moving and jobs need to be created.”
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.