South Africa enjoys late and large 2021 wine harvest

The 2021 South African wine harvest has been estimated at 1,461,599 tonnes, 8.9% larger than in 2020.

The harvest began two weeks later than normal due to cool weather conditions throughout the season, not finishing until May in some areas.

Following the droughts of recent years, the replenishment of water resources contributed to good vine growth, bunch numbers and berry size.

“It seems as though the vines really took their time to prepare this year’s harvest,” said Conrad Schutte, consultation and service manager at Vinpro.

“Moderate weather throughout the season, and specifically during harvest time, resulted in grapes ripening slower while developing exceptional colour and flavour. The cooler weather enabled producers to harvest the grapes at exactly the right time. Viticulturists and winemakers are especially excited about good colour extraction, low pH levels and high natural acidity.”

With many producers still in possession of last year’s stock due to the 2020 export ban and restrictions on local alcohol sales, the later harvest help to ease the pressure.

“With the stock still in tanks at the beginning of harvest, producers were concerned about processing and storage capacities, many rented additional storage space or restored older tanks,” said Rico Basson, managing director at Vinpro.

“However, with sales reopening and the later start to the harvest, this pressure was eased to some extent.”

The quality of the harvest has provided optimism for a region eager to recover after a difficult 2020.

“We are delighted that the 2021 harvest has proved to be a silver lining for the South African wine industry, which will no doubt further bolster our strong international position,” said Siobhan Thompson, chief exec at Wines of South Africa.

“What stands out is the consistency in quality, something we have seen continually in recent years. Already in 2021, our exports in both volume and value terms are out-performing figures from 2020 and 2019. The positive news about this year’s harvest will reinforce our overall standing alongside our international competitors.”