Drought threatens South Africa 2018 vintage

Chris Losh

Chris Losh

18 September 2017

It may be nearly four months away, but South Africa’s winemakers are already eyeing the 2018 vintage with concern amid fears that the Cape’s ongoing drought could have a major impact on volumes.

'We’ve had a drought for over five years, and it’s going to hurt us this year,' said Rudiger Gretschel, winemaker at Reyneke in Stellenbosch.

According to Gretschel, vineyards are budding early, proof that the vines didn’t 'sleep' properly over the winter.

'Anything out of the norm spells challenges,' he told Imbibe. 'We are a bit nervous, to be honest. All the warning signs are there.'

Though there has been some rain over the winter, it hasn’t been enough to fill the dams and while growers with old bush vines that have deep roots might be unaffected, the vast majority of the Cape’s vineyards are wire-trained and irrigated to some degree.

'Those vines have no depth of roots, there’s no buffer capacity,' said Pieter-Niel Rossouw, winemaker at Darling Cellars. 'If we get two or three inches of rain between now and the end of November, we will be ok. If not, it will be an interesting time.'

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