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South Africa brings in earliest wine harvest in over 20 years

Published:  17 February, 2015

South Africa is reporting its earliest harvest of the millennium, with leading Swartland producer, Adi Badenhorst, having finished picking all his fruit by Valentine's Day.

Adi BadenhorstSwartland producer Adi Badenhorst says the 2015 harvest is the earliest since 1994

Stellenbosch, not as warm as Swartland, is invariably several weeks behind, but most growers there expect to have got their fruit off the vine by the end of February.

"It's the earliest end to a harvest in Swartland since 1994," said Badenhorst, who started picking in the second week of January. "Budburst was very early, so hang-time isn't an issue, and I'm really pleased with the quality of the fruit." Yields, though, are slightly down on last year's record national production of 1.16 billion litres, with Badenhorst having crushed 250 tonnes of fruit, compared to 300 in 2014.

While Swartland's rise continues unabated, the next hitherto unheralded region in South Africa to be catching the eye of international cognoscenti could be Robertson. Its reputation for bulk wine production has tended to overshadow the fact it has some of South Africa's very best wineries, such as De Wetshof, Springfield and Graham Beck, but these heavyweights are now being supported by the emergence of smaller high quality producers like Arendsig, Rietvallei and Kleinhoekkloof.

Robertson is often wrongly regarded as being warm climate, being inland, for it has a bigger diurnal range than Stellenbosch. A welcome south-easterly wind comes in every day in mid-afternoon, leading to cool nights and high acidity levels. This is one of the reasons why Graham Beck and Wonderfontein make high quality sparkling wine, and why De Wetshof and Springfield produce some of the leading Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in South Africa.

To read Geoffrey Dean's full blog on the region, click here.