Local wine exports reached record high in 2012
EngineeringNews.co.za - Mar 26th, 09:58
South Africa is anticipating a grape crop of more than 1.3-million tons for 2013 – a record in the wine industry’s history – which could, depending on market demand, potentially aid wine exports. The country’s wine exports reached a record of 417-million litres in 2012, up 17% from 2011.
The outlook for the South African wine industry remains positive, partially owing to a worldwide shortage of wines as a result of a significant drop in the harvests of competitor wine-producing nations in Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand owing to climate conditions.
Although a decrease in local vineyard plantings is evident, improved viticultural techniques employed by producers should improve the yield and quality of vineyards, states Nederburg Wine Farms group manager Hannes van Rensburg.
South Africa is in the fortunate position of being able to explore new wine-growing opportunities, whereas legislation in many European wine-producing countries prohibits the planting of certain grape varieties outside prescribed areas, he adds.
“South Africa does not have the limitations that are placed on international competitors, which allows for the strengthening of the country’s growing reputation for wine excellence. “Many local producers win top international awards and Nederburg is South Africa’s most awarded winery.”
In addition, there is a new group of international wine critics expressing their confidence in South African wine, states Van Rensburg, who has been active in advancing local viticultural best practice, environmentally sustainable vineyard management policies and the conservation of indigenous habitat in and among the Nederburg vineyards.
He highlights that a challenge facing the global wine industry is the shift from packaged alternatives towards bulk wine exports, as a result of cost and the need to reduce carbon emissions. This is a challenge particular to South Africa, and also affects other wine-producing countries, he points out.
“At Nederburg our emphasis is on investing in our packaged wine brands and ensuring that they remain profitable so that we can continue to protect and sustain brand equity and jobs. In 2012, we introduced two new tiers; 56Hundred, which is a lifestyle range; and Heritage Heroes, which is a gourmet collection; to keep our range relevant and appeal to a broader spectrum of wine lovers in traditional and newer global wine markets.”
Another growing concern for South African wine producers is access to water, Van Rensburg notes. “Some of Nederburg’s vineyards are dryland and, therefore, do not rely on irrigation. In other areas, we use sophisticated soil moisture monitoring techniques, including probes and pressure bombs, to ensure just enough water is used. We have also established protocols to reduce the ambient temperature around vines.”
These include altering the direction in which vine rows are planted to avoid excess heat exposure by using specific canopy-management techniques to lower the temperatures around grape bunches and create a cooler microclimate. Vine growers are also increasingly using drought- resistant rootstocks such as R99 and Ruggeri.
In South Africa the spectre of drought is a possibility; therefore, a culture of judicious water management is required. “South Africa is regarded as a pioneer in sustainable wine growing,” Van Rensburg states.
He highlights that the Inte-grated Production of Wine (IPW) principles were established in 1998 to promote sustainable wine production from soil to bottle and have been successful to date.
One of the Nederburg wine farms was used as a test location to evaluate the IPW scheme during its developmental phase and it passed with “flying colours” in 1997.
Nederburg also earned its Biodiversity and Wine (BWI) membership under Van Rensburg’s management in 2011. “The BWI involves rehabilitating land to indigenous habitat, clearing alien vegetation and unclogging waterways, which improves water flow,” he explains.
Following a low-impact farming approach helps to combat erosion and reduces vulnerability to floods and fires. By applying integrated pest management, Nederburg also reduced its dependence on pesticides and has planted spekbome to absorb carbon dioxide.
Cool-Climate Areas The wine industry is creating new cool-climate areas for vineyards and is increasingly cultivating grape varieties best suited to warmer growing conditions, such as Grenache, Tempranillo, Mourvèdre and Tannat. This benefits wine lovers because they can enjoy a wider range of wines, Van Rensburg explains.
“The implementation of technologies to accommodate climate change is an ongoing process and has been under way for over ten years. Farmers are mindful of the need to match grape varieties with optimal growing conditions and choose varieties best suited to their location as they replant or upgrade them.”
“If our success were to be measured by the quality of South Africa’s wine grapes, there has been a marked improvement over the past 15 years and, every year, it gets better,” he concludes.
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