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South Africa's 2014 wine harvest set for 'mild decline'

Published:  23 April, 2014

South Africa's harvest is set for a "mild decline" in 2014, as the picking season draws to an end.

So far, observers have declared that quality is "above average" thanks to mild March temperatures which helped with slow ripening.

The vintage caused some headaches for wineries as both early and mid-season varieties reached ripeness at the same time.

South African wine journalist Christian Eedes described this year's harvest succinctly on Twitter, saying it was "'tricky' in a word". He elaborated, saying: "Early & mid-season varieties came in together. Changeable weather. Can only really tell when the vino is in the bottle..."

South AfricaSouth AfricaSouth Africa's harvest looks to be slightly down on 2013's record, while winemakers have faced pressures when both early and mid season varieties reached ripeness simultaneously.

Rabobank, in its Q2 wine report published last week, said  the South African harvest was almost complete, with "expectations for a mild decline in production compared to the large 2013 crop. There is general agreement that the quality of this crop is quite good."

According to VinPro, which represents 4,000 South African producers, the harvest began a week to 10 days late, with warm February conditions leading to quick ripening of all varieties thereafter. "This resulted in the early varieties (like Chardonnay; Sauvignon blanc, Pinotage and Pinot Noir) and mid-season varieties like Chenin blanc, Merlot and Shiraz ripening at the same time. Some of the cellars took in about 50% of their production in two weeks."

Later varieties have benefited from cooler March temperatures, resulting in slow ripening and good colouring or late varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, said VinPro.

"Indications point towards a smaller crop than the record in 2013. In the coastal regions bigger than expected crops are being harvested from the early cultivars, which may be ascribed to good weather conditions and supplementary rain. Dryland vineyards in particular are faring above average due to the favourable conditions. All indications are that quality in these regions is above average, for both red and white varieties," VinPro added.

Are you involved in the South African wine industry? Let us know how the 2014 vintage is progressing for you byemailing Gemma McKenna, tweeting @HarpersWine or commenting below.