South African wine industry delivers exceptional harvest despite climatic challenges

Despite facing frost, floods, and unpredictable weather, South African wine producers have delivered an exceptional 2024 harvest, according to a recent report. This season showcases the industry’s adaptability and resilience, promising wines of outstanding quality.

The current report indicates that’s that the 2024 harvest season has been a journey defined by meticulous planning, and the adaptability of wine producers in response to diverse climatic challenges and disruptions.

According to South Africa Wine, harvesting season was a true test of the South African wine industry’s resilience. “Despite facing diverse and demanding climatic events, from frost and heavy winter rainfall to floods and wind, the industry’s adaptability and nimbleness transformed this harvest into one of the most remarkable in recent memory,” South Africa Wine said in a statement.

“With optimal ripening tempo, small berries and moderate, dry conditions during harvest, the stage is set for wines of unparalleled excellence to supply the domestic and more than 120 global markets,” they further added.

Vinpro consultation services manager Dr Etienne Terblanche said excellent winter conditions in most wine-grape growing regions raised high expectations for the harvest.”

“One of the standout aspects of this season was the exceptional sanitary condition of the grapes – a rarity in rainy harvest seasons and a testament to the industry’s resilience and adaptability,” he further said.

South Africa Wine chief executive officer Rico Basson said the 2023/2024 season may have presented its share of obstacles, but it has also showcased the resilience and determination of the South African wine industry.

“This industry stands resilient, with our wine stock now in equilibrium. Despite fluctuations in harvest yields and vineyard surface areas, we are primed and prepared to supply the world with exceptional quality and distinctive wines,” Basson expressed.

“The South African wine industry is undergoing a strategic repositioning, shifting our focus to value growth. Through reinvestment for growth and collaborative strategies, we are forging a path to strengthen our industry and propel us towards a future of quality, innovation, and sustainability,” he said.
The 2024 grape harvest yielded 1,099,051 tonnes from 87,848ha, a 7% decrease from 2023, according to SAWIS. This, combined with strong market demand, has balanced the industry’s wine stock levels, unlike some competitors who face a surplus and drastic measures like uprooting vineyards. Lower volumes create cost pressures, but they also support the sector’s commitment to value growth.

The total wine harvest, including juice and concentrate for non-alcoholic purposes, wine for brandy and distilling, is estimated at 857m litres, with a recovery rate of 780 litres per tonne of grapes.

Early cultivars had lighter yields across most regions, while later red cultivars generally improved. Winemakers are optimistic about the overall quality, especially full-bodied red wines with excellent colour and tannin extraction. White wines are expected to be fresh with ample texture.

South Africa is the world’s seventh-largest wine producer, contributing about 4% of the world’s wine. The industry adds more than R56.5bn to the country’s GDP and employs 270,364 people across the value chain, including 85,962 on farms and in cellars.

Regional Production Highlights:

Breedekloof: Optimal grape analyses and good colour in red wines.

Cape South Coast: Healthy grapes due to low rainfall during harvest, with good quality despite lower juice recoveries.

Cape Town: Good flavour intensity in white wines and promising colour development in red wines.

Klein Karoo: High rainfall and good wine quality, highlighting the importance of rainfall timing.

Northern Cape: Riper, tropical wine profile with better-than-expected quality in red cultivars.

Olifants River: Despite flood damage, yields matched the previous season, with disease control methods improving wine quality.

Paarl: A wet and cold winter followed by a hot January affected crop size, but the region saw good variation in yields and wine quality.

Robertson: High humidity challenged early cultivars, but overall grape health and wine quality were good.

Stellenbosch: Significant early rainfall followed by a dry summer led to lighter yields for early cultivars, but good grape quality.

Swartland: Despite a lighter yield, the quality of grapes was good, especially for red wines.

Worcester: Optimal ripeness and sugar levels in most grapes, with improved colour development in red cultivars. New plantings are enhancing the region’s red wine output.

Wines of South Africa Export Report 2023: Positive Value Growth, Despite Challenging Global Economy

The year 2023 will undoubtedly be remembered by the world’s wine fraternity as one of the most challenging.

This rings true in the context of South African wine exports as well, with volume declines of 17%, resulting in total export volumes of 306 million litres. The silver lining for South African producers can be seen in positive value growth of total exports to a respectable US$540 million (R10 billion), despite the volume decline.

Harvest 2023 saw production volumes decline by 14%, a scenario echoed by the OIV report which highlights smaller harvests globally for the year, however, the realities of excessive stocks in both northern and southern hemisphere producing countries, has had an adverse effect on pricing on the whole. This can especially be seen at the lower- and entry level segment of the wine markets where trading is particularly competitive and pricing within this commodity sector leading to a ripple effect throughout the value chain.

Despite these challenges, South African wines are still making waves internationally with continuous positive recognition from critics such as Tim Atkin, MW in his latest South African report and Anthony Mueller’s latest report on the Wine Advocate platform. It is this reputation for top quality wines that seem to be setting South African wines apart from many of our counterparts and fueling the positive premium growth trajectory.

“The consistent positive ratings and accolades achieved by South African wines has most certainly solidified our positioning in international markets. Quality remains our focus and the consistency that we have seen, along with viticultural improvements, embracing new technologies both in the vineyards and cellars, will allow for the continued upward trajectory in this regard. This is why buyers remain confident in their support of our wines,” comments Wines of South Africa CEO, Siobhan Thompson.
She adds, “Thanks to our unique terroir, our producers are known for making wines that are unique and representative of our rainbow nation.”

In addition to this, wine tourism in South Africa is projected to have further bolstered growth, adding to the overall sustainability of particularly the small and medium sized entities.
In an upcoming report following a wine tourism impact study (due for release on 1 February 2024), preliminary figures have shown exponential growth in numbers and turnover at cellar doors, with full recovery following the Covid pandemic. This growth can be accounted for by both local and international visitors to the Cape winelands.

South African white wine continues to win the popularity contest with Sauvignon Blanc leading the charge, followed by Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. All three cultivars also showing solid value growth. On the red wine side of things, Shiraz takes the lead, closely followed by Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Producers continue to face several localised challenges. One of the main issues is the ongoing infrastructure and equipment challenges at the Port of Cape Town, which has had a major impact on all products and commodities that are heavily reliant on this harbour.

Newly formed wine industry body, South Africa Wine, together with exporters, are continuously engaging with port authorities and have taken a proactive approach in finding ways to support producers in this regard. However, a long-term strategy needs to be implemented to truly negate and ultimately correct these challenges.

“Order fulfilment is key in the international wine business and we cannot allow delays due to a below-standard logistical performance to tarnish our reputation as a reliable supplier of quality wine,” says Christo Conradie, stakeholder engagement, market access and policy manager at South Africa Wine.

“Transnet (Port of Cape Town) is a crucial enabler to ensure we deliver on our global promise and we have the undertaking that Transnet will step up to the mark, focusing on the controllables via a collaborative effort. Notwithstanding some real logistical challenges, we are confident for the future and are committed to honouring all agreements.”

There is no doubt that 2024 will continue to see challenges for the South African, and indeed, the global wine industries as geopolitical pressures will continue to play a major role in the world economy. Despite this, South Africa and the South African wine industry remains open for business and the export of South African wine remains a major focus.

For more information, visit www.wosa.co.za

De Waal – Top of the Hill Pinotage

The De Waal Wine Farm is located on Uiterwyk Estate in the cool Stellenbosch Kloof Valley, which has been in De Waal family since 1864. Currently owned by Pieter de Waal, this historic family has been making wine for nine generations. De Waal is renowned for the classic style of its Pinotage wines, the only indigenous South African grape variety.

Did you know?

CT de Waal was the first winemaker in South Africa to make wine from Pinotage grapes in 1941.

And,

De Waal Wine Farm is the home of Top of the Hill Pinotage, which is made from the world’s oldest Pinotage vines.

Smart Technology Helps Wine Tourism Grow in South Africa

Vinpro, together with the Cape Winelands District Municipality is funding a new wine tourism research pilot program to generate tourism intelligence and help South African wineries grow their Direct-to-Consumer business.

Launched in March of this year with sixteen wineries, this new pilot program is a continuation of one of Vinpro and the SA Wine Routes Forum (SAWRF)’s strategic objectives to conduct research focused on industry needs and knowledge gaps. Vinpro, and Vintelligence collaborated last year to release the SA Wine Tourism Visitor Research Report 2022 and this year the goal is smarter use of technology.

“We are extremely excited to have kicked off this amazing pilot program and we want cellars to get involved now,” says Marisah Nieuwoudt, wine tourism manager at Vinpro. “The new pilot program was launched together with Flow Networks, specialists in location analytics, proximity marketing and Guest Wi-Fi. This year we want to use the technology to our advantage to count our visitors and note where they come from, to understand the size and make-up of the total market. We want to help our wineries stay connected to wine tourists between visits, making consumer engagement in the DTC wine space possible.”

A tasting room is both the heart of the DTC sales strategy and the conversion zone for future online sales. The more data you can collect and record about customers, the better your can tailor offers and personalize communication. Flow Networks will work with the cellars involved on their marketing strategy to assist on cross-channel sales, manage their online reputation, build a loyalty and rewards program, or send offers via e-mail. Flow Networks is a reputable service provider, licensed to use Purple, and used by some of the largest brands in the world.

Presence Analytics is a software module that counts the number of mobile devices in range of a producer or cellar’s Wi-Fi router using a built-in location sensor. Visitors do not need to be connected to the farm’s Wi-Fi to be counted. It also measures the time spent in the venue and the frequency of visits.

Wi-Fi Analytics records visitors’ information that connect to a guest Wi-Fi service. A CRM record is created for each guest when they connect and is updated every time they return. This is done by linking up one or more of the farm’s existing Wi-Fi routers to the Purple Wi-Fi platform. Purple is installed on top of the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, and setup takes less than an hour. The system can be managed via an online portal accessible to wineries. Purple instantly starts building a database via its user-friendly, custom-branded Wi-Fi landing pages once the winery goes live.

“As a region, we believe that wine tourism is not only about enjoying exquisite wines and breath-taking landscapes but also about harnessing the power of data and intelligence to support the growth of wineries and enhance our visitors’ experiences,” says Melody Botha, CEO Breedekloof Wine Valley. “That’s why we are proud to take part in the wine tourism research pilot program. By participating in this program, we aim to unlock valuable insights that can inform strategic decision-making for our wineries, enabling them to optimize their DTC business operations, improve customer engagement, and create memorable experiences for visitors. We recognize the potential of data-driven approaches to drive innovation and foster sustainable growth in the wine tourism industry.”

“We see this pilot program as an opportunity to pool our collective knowledge and expertise, so we can elevate our wine tourism offerings and position our region as a premier wine destination. We envision a future where wineries in our region can thrive in the DTC market, and where visitors can have truly exceptional wine tourism experiences,” Botha concluded.

“The tourism sector is one of the largest economic contributors in the Cape Winelands District. Between our mandated function of generating opportunities through local economic development and our role as Regional Tourism Office, this exciting and technologically advanced project ticks all the right boxes for the Cape Winelands District Municipality,” says Dr Elna von Schlicht, executive mayor of the Cape Winelands District Municipality.

 

South Africa Wine Exports Fall in 2022

According to recent data released by Wines of South Africa (WoSA), export volumes dropped 5% year-on-year to 368.8 million litres of wine. Sales by value declined 2.9% to ZAR9.9bn (US$577m). WoSA advised that this was due to adverse weather and supply-chain disruption.

“The recovery of exports was hampered in 2022 by various factors out of the control of our producers,” WoSA CEO Siobhan Thompson said.

WoSA pointed to an “extended period of adverse weather conditions,” which hit the shipping port of Cape Town in April. In October, industrial action by port workers caused disruptions for two weeks that impacted the port’s export capacity.

South Africa’s largest wine market is the UK, which took in 96.9 million litres of wine in 2022, a rise of 5% on the previous year. However, the total value of exports to the UK dropped by 5% to ZAR2.4bn.

Germany, South Africa’s second-biggest export market, declined by 17% in value and by 9% in volume terms. WoSA attributed the results to inflation and “an emerging culture of drinking local wines”.

Exports to China fell by 38% in volume, accompanied by a decline in value of 26%. South African wines in the market had been showing “exponential growth” but China’s zero-Covid policy hit demand, WoSA said.

WoSA CEO, Siobhan Thompson comments “On a positive note, the image of South African wine continues to grow with South African wine being awarded various top accolades and ratings in a host of competitions and professional ratings. CapeWine2022, our premier industry showcasing, proved to be a major success and attracted top buyers, influencers and importers from around the globe and we hope to see the impact of this on exports going into 2023.”

view the infographic for further information pertaining to 2022 exports.

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