Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)

Marginal uptick in wine grapes amid difficulti­es


Despite unfavourab­le weather and disease outbreaks in some wine producing regions, the 2021 wine grape crop is estimated to be 3,4% larger than that of last year (1,38 million tons compared with 1,34 million tons).

This is according to Vinpro managing director Rico Basson, who said that wet weather followed by hot conditions could result in the growth of fungi such as downy mildew.

“Powdery mildew is [also] visible in some vineyards,” he added.

Basson said that if too much rain fell during the harvest, grapes could burst, and botrytis and sour rot could set in. In many cases, farmers were removing leaves from the vines to let in sunlight and air to dry the bunches faster.

The cultivars that were being harvested at the time of going to print were Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Basson said that although the cooler weather had initially slowed down the harvest, the warm weather at the end of March had rectified the situation.

He said fruit set of Chardonnay in some regions was not good, but other cultivars such as Merlot and Chenin Blanc showed good fruit set.

“In regions where we didn’t see great fruit set, it was mostly driven by cold and wet weather during the setting period.”

Kwagga Boucher, owner and winemaker of La Boucher Wines in Stellenbos­ch, said yields appeared to be similar to those of last year, but the season was about “three weeks late”. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties were still being harvested, and it was difficult to predict final yields, but he was hoping for 7t/ha. Boucher added he was able to spray for diseases in time.

“There are many farmers who couldn’t get into the vineyards in time or afford a late spray. Weeds got a bit out of control, and the weeding programme this winter will be crucial. The spraying and extra labour increased our production costs over budget.”

Boucher said he was positive about the quality of grapes being harvested, but with the late season, sugar levels were increasing very slowly. – Pieter Dempsey


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