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WoSA expects ‘exceptional’ vintage despite coronavirus

Published:  03 April, 2020

Wines of South Africa (WoSA) has announced it expects the country’s 2020 wine grape crop to yield “exceptional wines”.

It said the occurrence of wind during the growing and ripening periods in certain regions had contributed to smaller berries, which gave rise to lighter crops and lower juice recoveries. 

This, it said, meant the harvest would be smaller than the five-year average of 1.36 million tonnes but was predicted to be larger than the drought impacted 2019 harvest.

The smaller berries would give good concentration of both colour and flavour, which would result in “exceptional wine quality”, said Conrad Schutte, manager of the wine industry body Vinpro’s viticultural consultation services. 

Thanks to a last-minute concession from the South African government to continue harvest and winemaking activities during the country’s coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown from 26 March until 16 April 2020, the industry is busy harvesting the last few thousand tonnes across eight of its 10 wine regions.

“As an industry, we have always remained positive, and will continue to do so, despite our current challenges. Once normality returns and we are back to business as usual, our producers will be ready to continue with the sale and promotion of South African wine and hopefully, in years to come, we will remember this period as one that gave us the time for introspection, to regroup and to come back even stronger than we were before,” said Siobhan Thompson, CEO, WoSA.

When the South African Government published its coronavirus lockdown regulations on 25 March 2020, all wine industry activities were prohibited, including the production, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages (which includes local sales and exports) from midnight on 26 March until midnight on 16 April 2020.

However, through advocacy by various industry bodies, government made a last-minute concession just hours before midnight on 26 March that “harvesting and storage activities essential to prevent the wastage of primary agricultural goods” would be regarded as essential services that may continue during the lockdown.

“We have a full grasp of the severity of the global coronavirus pandemic and support President Cyril Ramaphosa on his decision to take extreme measures to ensure the nation’s safety,” said Vinpro MD Rico Basson. 

“However, the ban on exports and capacity constraints at our main ports will especially have a significant effect on the survival of the South African wine industry, and more importantly, the livelihood of the close to 300,000 persons employed by the value-chain.”

Around half of South Africa’s wine production is exported. Vinpro, SA Liquor Brand Owners Association and WoSA have put together an Exporters Task Team to strengthen ongoing deliberations with government, which they hope to resolve before the weekend.