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.