District Conditions October 2013

October 2013


Post-harvest period (April – May) 
During the post-harvest period oidium was more prevalent than usual and severely infected grapevines shed their leaves earlier than usual. On the whole conditions were nevertheless favourable and leaf fall occurred at the usual time, accompanied by good accumulation of reserves.

Winter (June – August) 
It was a very good winter with sufficient cold and above average rainfall. Except for a warmer spell at the beginning of July, the average temperatures this year were consistently below the long term average. Good cold units accumulated, thus ensuring favourable bud burst. In June and August especially rainfall was higher than usual. Large catchment and farm dams are full, and the ground water content is at full capacity.

Spring (September – October) 
The industry experienced a bitterly chilly September, with several cold fronts bringing copious amounts of rain and snow. Bud burst is generally 7 - 10 days later than usual. Initially bud burst was very good and even, but it was more uneven in later grapevines in the wake of a cold front over the last weekend in September. Extensive frost damage occurred along the Orange River between 20 and 23 September. Initial growth was also slow due to the chilly conditions and low soil temperatures. In many instances producers could not start their spraying programmes, the soils being so wet that tractor access was impossible. Snail populations appear to be problematic in some regions.

Crop expectations 2014 
Judging from the 2013 post-harvest period, the winter season, as well as the uprooting and planting trends in the regions, the crop is expected to be smaller than the record 2013 crop, but in most regions the seasonal conditions will nevertheless result in a good crop. Frost damage along the Orange River will impact considerably on the region’s production.


Breedekloof (Leon Dippenaar)

Post-harvest period (April – May) 
The period following the harvest of the 2013 crop was generally conducive to good accumulation of reserves. With favourable climatic conditions and relatively few diseases, leaf fall took place at the usual time this year, or slightly later.

Winter (June – August) 
According to the Klipdrift weather station in Rawsonville, June was wet and cold. The average minimum and maximum temperatures were respectively 0.25°C higher and 1.2°C lower than the corresponding long term figures. Rainfall of 197 mm significantly exceeded the long term average of 74 mm.

July rainfall was considerably less than usual, but the weather was consistently cold. Even though the average night temperatures were approximately 2.1ºC higher than the long term average, the average day temperature was approximately 1ºC colder than the long term average. Rainfall of 78 mm was far below the long term figure of 116 mm.

In August both the average minimum and maximum temperatures were 1ºC below the long term figures. Winter rainfall was late this year, but in August made up for the relatively drier first half of the winter with 226 mm precipitation, compared to the long term figure of 87 mm.

Winter therefore kicked off wet and cold, with July being slightly drier, whereafter August was once again cold and wet. This is very good news for the supplementation of subterranean water reserves, as well as the filling of farm dams. Sufficient cold units accumulated during the winter months for normal bud burst.

Spring (September – October) 
The September rainfall of 76 mm was slightly higher than the long term average of 48 mm. Both the average minimum and maximum temperatures of 6°C and 19°C were slightly below the long term averages of 8°C and 22°C respectively.

Bud burst in the grapevines took place mostly at the usual time. In Chardonnay especially bud burst was once again very good and even this year. Initially shoot growth did not look very vigorous. Conditions are almost identical to the spring of 2012, and the slightly cooler climate in September and October may explain this situation. Even shoot growth is a further characteristic of this year’s conditions and bud burst of the shoots occurs mostly on the bearers.

So far there have been no problems in terms of disease. It nevertheless seems that snails may once again be problematic this year.

Grapevine planting statistics (SAWIS) 
Total grapevine plantings in Breedekloof on 31 December 2012 amounted to 12 766 ha, consisting of 8 179 ha (64%) white grapes and 4 588 ha (36%) red grapes.

The total hectares in November 2008 amounted to 12 248 ha, comprising 8 106 ha white and 4 142 ha red. There has consequently been a net increase of 518 ha over the four year period, with white grapes increasing by 72 ha and red grapes by 445 ha.

Taking into account the 2013 plantings, an increasing growth in red grapes can be expected, whereafter the reds should start stabilising and the white cultivars should start increasing again. The growth trend in Pinotage looks set to continue. There has also been a slight revival in Ruby Cabernet and Shiraz plantings. Cabernet Sauvignon plantings are very low and the age composition of this cultivar is getting progressively older. A decrease in

Cabernet Sauvignon is therefore on the cards in the near future.

As regards the whites, the plantings of Colombar and Chenin blanc showed the biggest growth from 2008 to 2012, followed by Sauvignon blanc and Chardonnay. Chenin blanc appears to be the most planted, while Sauvignon blanc plantings are on a decreasing trend.

Crop expectations 2014 
At this stage the budding percentage is looking very good. The percentage of flower clusters per shoot also appears to be fairly normal. Weather conditions during the flowering and set periods can nevertheless still impact largely on the crop.

Plantings may have a positive impact, especially because several young Chenin blanc and Colombar plantings are coming into production. Likewise a large number of Pinotage vineyards, which could also impact positively on the crop on the red side. Viticultural practices have generally been adapted to obtain increased yield from grapevines. On the other hand the age composition, with an increasing percentage of older grapevines, may in turn impact negatively.

It is doubtful whether the 2013 record crop will be matched, but I reckon that the district can still look forward to an above-average crop.

Klein Karoo (Johannes Mellet) 
Post-harvest period (April – May) 
Most grapevines retained their leaves long enough for the accumulation of reserves. With pressure on the availability of cellar space late in the season, late blocks of Colombar were crushed a weak or two after optimal ripeness. In these blocks mechanical harvesters were used with difficulty and large amounts of leaves were lost during and just after the harvest.

Winter (June – August) 
Temperatures were sufficiently low for complete dormancy breaking. On average May was 1°C colder, June was normal and July approximately 1°C warmer than the previous few seasons.

Rainfall was above average for April and June, but below average for May and July. Total rainfall from April to July is much like the average rainfall for the region, although far less than the previous season.

Most of the large dams in the area still have water from the previous season. Dams are at slightly lower levels than the same time last year, but most of the dams are between 70% and 95% full.

Spring (September – October) 
Spring started out very chilly. The average for September is approximately 1°C colder than usual. Rainfall was higher and condensation lower.

Bud burst was later and growth in grapevines slow due to the cooler weather conditions. The sequence of bud burst occurred more or less as expected. Bud burst is mostly very even, the only exceptions being Shiraz and young grapevines. Bud burst takes place mostly on the bearers, which facilitates suckering.

Moderate quantities of erinose, bud mite and snails prevail. Weeds do not pose any problems this year.

Grapevine planting statistics (SAWIS) 
As in the rest of South Africa, fewer grapevines are being planted in the Klein Karoo than required to replace our existing hectares. The surface planted to grapevines is decreasing by approximately 3% per annum. Uprootings have decreased, however, and there is renewed interest in the planting of grapevines.

In general far more white than red is being planted. Chenin blanc, Colombar and Hanepoot are the most planted white cultivars. Ruby Cabernet and Shiraz are the most planted red cultivars.

New plantings are subject to careful selection of cultivars, clones, rootstocks, soil and trellis systems for better production than in the past. It is therefore possible to maintain good productions despite the decrease in grapevines.

Crop expectations 2014 
Wine grape production has increased from 13.2 ton/ha in 2008 to 17.5 ton/ha in 2013. Hectares have decreased slightly, but increased production can be expected from new plantings.

Bunch initiation during the previous season was excellent due to temperatures being warmer than expected, sufficient soil moisture and strong vigour in November and December. Winter had sufficient rainfall and cold. Bud burst was very even and later than usual. At present soil moisture is looking very good, with sufficient irrigation water being available. However, rainfall was less than the previous season.

The crop is expected to be good, but slightly smaller than the record crop of 2013.

Olifants River (Gert Engelbrecht) 
Post-harvest period (April – May) 
Conditions were normal during the post-harvest period until leaf fall, which was neither untimely nor early. Leaves remained in place long enough to ensure sufficient accumulation of reserves.

There were isolated instances of blocks with oidium, resulting in early leaf fall. Otherwise no problems were observed.

Winter (June – August) 
During the winter of 2013, like last year, the accumulation of cold units was very good and far exceeded the long term average.

By the end of September 2013 the region’s rainfall had already equalled the long term annual average, with three months to go and the possibility of more showers.

Spring (September – October) 
Much of September saw colder than usual, overcast weather. October kicked off with lovely warm weather.

Bud burst in grapevines is generally even, thanks to the accumulation of good cold units during winter, although it is later than usual due to cold September conditions. The river, which has been flooding with regular intervals, prevents final pruning of low-lying vineyards. In these blocks bud burst has also started on the shoot tips.

Initial shoot growth of the blocks that experienced early bud burst was also slow due to the cold weather conditions in September. Initial shoot growth has been without any problems.

So far no diseases and pests have been observed. However, many producers are being challenged by snail control.

Grapevine planting statistics (SAWIS) 
Total grapevine plantings indicate an average annual growth of 50 ha per annum over the past three years. As regards the whites, Steen and Colombar are being planted, and among the reds Pinotage is the most planted, with Shiraz and Cabernet being uprooted.

In view of the fact that mass bearers are currently favoured as far as plantings are concerned (white and red), we predict that crops will be very large for the next three years, and may even exceed the record crop of 2013.

Crop expectations 2014 
Considering the 2013 crop size, it is difficult to imagine that the Olifants River may again harvest such a big crop in 2014. Last year’s good bunch initiation period, planting and uprooting trends and the good accumulation of cold units make another large crop in 2014 a strong possibility; time will tell. Much still has to happen and the impact of the flooding river is also an unknown factor.

Orange River (Henning Burger) 
Post-harvest period (April – May) 
The first properly cold weather conditions occurred at the end of May 2013. This spell was short-lived and not accompanied by frost. Leaf fall started mid-June. Because it was very dry during the harvest and post-harvest period, there was hardly any disease pressure. Oidium occurred to a limited extent.

Winter (June – August) 
At the beginning of July widespread showers occurred across the entire lower Orange River area. By the end of July, average day and night temperatures were considerably higher than last winter.

By the end of July this year cold units in Augrabies amounted to 266, compared to last year’s 332 cold units. Humidity levels were higher than last year, with plenty of dew in the mornings. Initial pruning of grapevines started in June, followed by final pruning in July.

Constant low temperatures prevailed throughout August. Young grapevines that had been planted the previous year, Merbein Seedless especially, died because of cold damage. Considerable cold units accumulated in the course of August, but the total cold units for 2013 were lower than in 2012.

Spring (September – October) 
Bud burst started in the early wine grape cultivars on 14 September – approximately two weeks later than in 2012. In most cultivars even bud burst and good budding percentage prevailed. The budding percentage was especially good on grapevines that had been pruned to long bearers. Fertility is good in most cultivars, with double bunches on both Colombar and Chenin blanc in the majority of cases.

Widespread frost damage occurred on grapevines in the lower Orange River area as a result of the lowest average minimum temperatures on 22 and 23 September over the past 126 years. Temperatures as low as -10°C were measured in certain locations on 22 September.

Damage occurred from Groblershoop in the east to as far as Blouputs in the west. Frost damage is not an unknown factor in the lower Orange River area – usually a limited degree of frost damage affects various locations (often lower lying blocks in the area from Groblershoop to Kanoneiland) on an annual basis. Last year, for example, considerable frost damage occurred in the eastern areas of the Orange River area; good crops were nevertheless achieved, especially from dual purpose cultivars such as Sultana and Merbein Seedless.

The extent of the frost damage, and the area it affected over the weekend of 20-23 September 2013, have not been experienced in this region for a very long time (if ever). Even certain table grape blocks in outlying areas in the vicinity of Augrabies and Blouputs show signs of severe frost damage – a phenomenon that I have never encountered in ten years of being viticulturist in this region.

Frost damage ranged from one area, location and cultivar to the next. In brief it may be mentioned that the most damage was inflicted on cultivars in which bud burst had progressed the furthest by 22 September. In this regard it is clear, judging from visits to the respective production areas, that Sultana Seedless suffered the most damage by far. The damage to wine grape cultivars and Merbein Seedless was more limited, as most blocks were in the process of budding. Only those buds that had completed bud burst succumbed entirely to the frost. The extent of the damage to buds that were already woolly remains to be seen. In such instances bud burst often takes place, only for the bunches to be shed at a later stage.

The frost damage will most likely result in considerable losses in income, especially for the producers of drying and table grapes, and to a lesser extent wine grape producers. Most producers are engaged in a combination of more than one of these industries, and consequently they will be affected to a greater or lesser extent.

As with Merbein Seedless, the majority of wine grape blocks had not yet undergone bud burst or were in the very early stages of budding. This was the main reason why the damage to wine grapes was limited. Nonetheless, several wine grape blocks in early locations were acutely affected by the frost. The damage to Chenin blanc blocks was greater than to Colombar blocks, due to the earlier bud burst date of Chenin blanc. The recovery ability of wine grape cultivars is generally very good. Compensation is especially good if damage occurs shortly after bud burst, as was the case this year. It is heartening, however, that the bud burst percentage of wine grapes is looking excellent this year, especially on blocks pruned to long bearers, with 2 - 3 bunches on each shoot. As with Merbein Seedless, the extent to which woolly buds have been damaged is not yet clear.

Day and night temperatures have begun to rise considerably since the first week in October. So far there has been no precipitation during the spring period and the long term weather forecast does not indicate any rain in the near future either. Up to now there have not been any diseases or pests.

Grapevine planting statistics (SAWIS) 
The plantings of wine grapes in 2010, 2011 and 2012 exceeded the uprootings, but the 2013 uprootings are expected to exceed the plantings by far. The main reason for this state of affairs is the boom period currently being experienced by the raisin industry in the Orange River region, as well as the financial pressure on producers as a result of the 2011 flood and the big increase in minimum wages.

Consequently producers would rather plant traditional raisin cultivars such as Merbein, or new raisin cultivars such as Selma Pete, at the expense of wine grape plantings – or they are simply not planting at all. The wine grape cultivars that are being uprooted are mainly old, unproductive cultivars such as Chenel, Raisin blanc, Clairette blanche and older Colombar. Very old, unproductive Sultana Seedless is also being uprooted.

The cultivars that made the biggest contribution to plantings in 2013 were Chenin blanc and White Muscadel. In view of the fact that uprootings have been exceeding plantings, the region is bound to experience a decrease in total wine grape production in future. This puts pressure on unit cost – an aspect that warrants careful consideration.

Crop expectations 2014 
According to Orange River Cellars’ statistics, plantings in the region currently comprise 4 000 ha wine grape cultivars (older than 2 years) that are in production. The current estimate is that the average frost damage amounts to 10 - 15% across the total plantings in the region (Note: this is the estimate for total plantings and may range from area to area). Orange River Cellars expects a smaller intake than in 2013. Significant volumes of table grapes are delivered to the juice division at this cellar. With widespread frost damage also having affected table grape blocks, there is much uncertainty about the amount of table grapes that will be delivered in 2014.

Paarl (Hanno van Schalkwyk) 
Post-harvest period (April – May) 
April in the Paarl region was generally wet, as could be seen from the leaves that were retained for a very long period. At the Fairview weather station 75 mm rain was measured this year, compared to the long term average of 46 mm. In view of the fact that active photosynthesising leaves are necessary to convert the post-harvest fertilisation into carbohydrates, one may assume that the accumulation of reserves in grapevines was favourable this year.

The incidence of oidium was greater than usual during the post-harvest period and in severely affected grapevines, leaf activity was lost at an earlier stage.

After the good showers in April, the first part of May was exceptionally dry, which impacted quite negatively on the state of cover crops.

Winter (June – August) 
June and August in particular were exceptionally cold and wet, with 145 mm (long term average 107 mm) and 238 mm (long term average 101 mm) respectively being measured at Fairview station. Accumulated cold units at the end of May and in June were between 42% and 67% higher than the long term average (according to ISCW data) for selected stations.

One may therefore assume that the cold requirements of the grapevines were met, thus forming a solid base for even bud burst.

Average minimum and maximum temperatures during winter were below the long term average, except for July, when the average minimum temperatures were slightly higher.

The levels of irrigation dams look very favourable and soil moisture levels were filled to field capacity.

Spring (September – October) 
The above-average cold and wet conditions of August persisted throughout September, with considerable impact on bud burst dates. At the Fairview station, rainfall measured 103 mm compared to the long term average of 63 mm for September.

In grapevines that had been treated with dormancy breaking products, bud burst occurred more or less at the usual time, but by far the majority of grapevines experienced bud burst 7 - 10 days later than usual, depending on the location of the grapevine and the cultivar. Bud burst is fairly even, but persistent cold conditions after bud burst slowed down initial shoot growth and until now there have been few warm days to accelerate shoot growth.

The moist conditions in spring so far have favoured the incidence of dead-arm disease, but at this stage no symptoms have been observed. The extremely wet soil conditions have hampered the application of critical, early oidium sprays in particular.

Snails prevail in very large numbers on new shoot growth, as they did last season, but although problematic, control is effective. Millipedes also occur in large numbers in certain areas and feeding damage has been observed.

At this stage weeds are under control, but with pre-emergence herbicides being washed out, problems may crop up down the line. Resistant tall fleabane and rye grass remain a headache in certain areas.

Grapevine planting statistics (SAWIS) 
According to SAWIS statistics, 272 ha wine grapes were planted in 2012. Over the same period 651 ha were uprooted, however, which signifies a decrease of 379 ha in the total hectares planted to grapevines.

With uprootings of 542 ha and plantings of only 247 ha during 2011, the total plantings have decreased by 295 ha. A decrease of 286 ha was also recorded in 2010, with plantings and uprootings of 293 ha and 579 ha respectively in the Paarl region.

From 2010 to 2012 the total surface planted to grapevines decreased by 2.2% to 16 202 ha, which represents 16.2% of South Africa’s total grapevine plantings.

The most planted cultivars over the past three years are Shiraz and Pinotage among the reds and Chenin blanc and to a lesser degree Sauvignon blanc and Chardonnay among the whites. Producers plant mainly according to their market demand, but have definitely become more aware of the production potential of cultivars.

Crop expectations 2014 
The bunch initiation period of the previous season (October - November) saw spells of wet and cold weather conditions, which could impact negatively on fertility. Later bud burst this year boosts the probability that favourable weather conditions may prevail during flowering and set, which will play a decisive role in the crop size. The availability of irrigation water is favourable, and if producers protect their vineyards properly against the possible incidence of pests and fungal diseases during the growing season, the crop should be a good one. It is clear, however, that in the long run the total size of the crop will trend downwards, if the decrease in plantings in the region persists.

Robertson (Hennie Visser) 
Post-harvest period (April – May) 
Leaf fall occurred at the usual time. In many blocks, however, leaf fall was very early due to late oidium infections. In such blocks this resulted in less accumulation of reserves. Although few pests occurred during the post-harvest period, there were isolated incidences of oidium.

Winter (June – August) 
Robertson had a proper, cold winter. The winter chill arrived late, but according to the hypothesis for dormancy breaking, the cold during the critical period (mid-May to mid-June) was sufficient to comply with the grapevines’ cold requirements. There was ample rainfall in the Robertson valley during the winter months. The total rainfall during the winter months was 143 mm, which is 42% higher than the long term average for Robertson.

Spring (September) 
In early cultivars bud burst took place at the usual time, and even a few days earlier. It was very chilly, however, with copious rain and accompanying snow on the mountains. In grapevines that had not yet undergone bud burst, this was delayed by the cold weather. Initial shoot growth is also slow due to the cold weather and low soil temperatures.

Budding is very even, the exception being blocks that suffered early loss of leaves due to oidium. So far there have been no diseases. Symptoms of erinose are already evident on Chardonnay and Chenin blanc, and snails are problematic. Isolated cases of frost damage were reported, but the extent is minimal.

Grapevine planting statistics (SAWIS) 
Total grapevine plantings in the Robertson wine valley have increased by approximately 150 ha over the past three years. It is distinctly noticeable that over this period the total white hectares have decreased by approximately 350 ha and the total red hectares have increased by 500 ha. The percentage red hectares has therefore increased compared to the percentage white hectares.

The most planted white cultivars over the past three years are, in decreasing order, Colombar, Chenin blanc and Sauvignon blanc. The most planted red cultivars over the past three years are, in decreasing order, Pinotage, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Although there has been a net increase in total hectares, there have not been annual plantings of 5% (for a 20-year lifespan) of existing hectares. This means that the average age of the grapevines is increasing. Older grapevines have smaller yields and the risk exists that large numbers of hectares will have to be uprooted over a short period if it is no longer possible to farm profitably with the older blocks.

Crop expectations 2014 
Cooler weather prevailed in October with normal temperatures in November, during the bunch initiation period. Like the previous two years, the crop is expected to be above average. Expectations are based on the good winter rains, with sufficient cold. Moreover, there is still a net increase in hectares in the Robertson valley and the cultivars that are being established are predominantly those with higher yields. Producers keep trying to increase production through alternative trellis systems, pruning systems and farming methods.

Stellenbosch (Conrad Schutte) 
Post-harvest period (April – May) 
The leaf fall period was normal and can be ascribed, inter alia, to sufficient water in irrigation dams during the post-harvest period. Producers were therefore able to apply sufficient post-harvest irrigation, which impacted positively on the retention of leaves and accumulation of reserves. There were some exceptions in the region, with numerous grapevines losing their leaves at an early stage as a result of high oidium pressure during the harvest. On the other hand, some vineyard blocks are infected with leafroll virus and true to form, lost their leaves later than healthy blocks.

Winter (June – August) 
At the beginning of winter – the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of June – there were 10 consecutive days that complied with the theoretic cold demands of grapevines. The cold units during this period were better than the long term average, but worse than the previous season.

The Stellenbosch region experienced an exceptionally wet winter. According to the weather station at Helderfontein (situated between Nietvoorbij and Infruitec) rainfall in the area exceeded the 48 year average by 159 mm from June to August.

Average minimum temperatures were noticeably colder than the long term average, the exception being June when temperatures were above average.

Spring (September – October) 
Until now spring was cold and wet, while an average of 42 mm more rain was measured at the above-mentioned weather station in September. By the end of September, rainfall in the region had already exceeded the annual average by 250 mm. Irrigation dams are full and the large catchment dams in the region (Steenbras and Theewaterskloof) are more than 100% full.

Spring was also characterised by average minimum and maximum temperatures that were respectively 1.4ºC and 1.8ºC lower than the long term average.

This year bud burst was approximately 1 – 2 weeks later than usual, depending on the location of the vineyard and the cultivar. Bud burst in the region was generally even except for a few blocks of Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz. Chilly and wet conditions during bud burst resulted in slow initial shoot growth. The first warm sunny days during the first week of October changed the situation and accelerated shoot growth was observed.

Due to the moist conditions snails are present in large numbers on new shoot growth; this is problematic, but at present chemical control is effective. The incidence of bud mite symptoms is worrying; over the past two seasons such symptoms have been more readily observed. New products are available, however, and are currently being used to control incidence and distribution.

Long-horned grasshopper activity has been observed in the Simonsberg and Grabouw areas, although there has been no damage worth mentioning. Current wet conditions are also very favourable for the incidence of fungal diseases and most producers are acting preventatively with fungal disease control programmes.

Although there is high pressure from weeds, it is under control at this stage, because growth is slow due to the cool temperatures.

Grapevine planting statistics (SAWIS) 
The Stellenbosch region still contributes the most in terms of total planted wine grape hectares, and accounts for almost 17% of South African plantings.

During the 2011/2012 season 114 ha wine grapes were planted, of which white cultivars represented 33 ha (28%). The white plantings consisted mainly of Chenin Blanc (13 ha), Sauvignon Blanc (11 ha) and Chardonnay (5 ha). The red cultivars comprised 82 ha (71%) of the total plantings – mainly Cabernet Sauvignon (23 ha), Pinotage (13 ha), Merlot (11 ha), Shiraz (8 ha), and Pinot Noir (8 ha).

About 624 ha of grapevines were uprooted. White cultivars that were uprooted amounted to 270 ha, including Sauvignon Blanc (105 ha), Chenin Blanc (69 ha), Chardonnay (56 ha), Cape Riesling (12 ha), Colombar (8 ha) and Semillon (5 ha). Among the 354 ha red cultivar uprootings were Cabernet Sauvignon (175 ha), Merlot (76ha), Shiraz (46 ha), Pinotage (16 ha) and Cinsaut (2 ha).

From the above it is clear that the previous season’s trend is ongoing, with more grapevines being uprooted than planted. During the 2011/2012 season 510 ha more wine grapevines were uprooted than planted, compared to the 298 ha of the previous season.

Crop expectations 2014 
There were few rainy days during the bunch initiation period of the previous season (October – November), but in October especially temperatures were colder. Currently the visible bunch numbers are positive in the early cultivars. Favourable weather conditions, especially during the flowering/set period, as well as producers’ management input in respect of the incidence of pests and fungal diseases, will play a decisive role in the expected crop size. So far the weather conditions during winter and spring have made a positive contribution and a good crop is on the cards. The Stellenbosch region had a record crop in 2013 and grapevines are unlikely to produce the same yields. The decreasing grapevine plantings in the region, combined with these factors, are expected to contribute to a smaller crop in 2014.

Swartland (Hanno van Schalkwyk) 
Post-harvest period (April – May) 
The dry winters of 2010 and 2011 impacted negatively on the post-harvest periods of 2011 and 2012 and early leaf loss was the order of the day. The winter of 2012, which was properly wet and cold, and the rains in April this year, created conditions for leaves to remain intact for a long time to accumulate reserves for the coming season. At the Riebeeksrivier weather station, rainfall of 98 mm was measured in April.

Isolated instances of oidium during the post-harvest period resulted in early leaf fall.

After the good rains in April, the first part of May was exceptionally dry – the first decent showers fell on 26 May – which impacted rather negatively on the state of cover crops.

Winter (June – August) 
June was especially chilly and wet with 194 mm being measured at Riebeeksrivier and the accumulation of 233 cold units (according to the Richardson model). It can be assumed that the cold was sufficient to comply with the demand of the grapevines.

Total rainfall from June to August was 531 mm and 353 mm at the Riebeeksrivier and Schaapkraal weather stations respectively.

The levels of irrigation dams are looking very favourable and soil water levels have been supplemented to field capacity.

Spring (September – October) 
September was generally chilly and wet. Bud burst is very late this year; even later than in 2012, which was already later than usual. In early grapevines in which bud burst had already taken place, growth was arrested for a long time due to the cold, moist weather conditions. The different cultivars will most likely be more even than usual in their various growth phases.

The wet conditions during spring are especially conducive to the incidence of dead-arm disease, but at this stage no symptoms have been observed. Extremely wet soil conditions hamper the application of the critical, early oidium sprays in particular.

Snails are prevalent in very large numbers, like the previous season, and are problematic, but control has been effective. Millipedes are also present in large numbers in certain areas and feeding damage has been observed.

At this stage weeds are under control, but with pre-emergence herbicides being washed out of the soil, problems may occur down the line. Resistant tall fleabane and rye grass are still a headache in certain areas.

Grapevine planting statistics (SAWIS) 
In the Malmesbury region 345 ha, 441 ha and 591 ha respectively were uprooted in 2010, 2011 and 2012, while only 99 ha, 218 ha and 241 ha were planted over the same period.

From 2010 to 2012 the total plantings to grapevines decreased by 3.5% to 13 730 ha, representing 13.7% of South Africa’s total wine grapevine plantings. Over the past three years new plantings on the white side were dominated by Chenin blanc with smaller amounts of Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot gris and Hanepoot being established. Pinotage and Shiraz are the most important among the red cultivars that were planted, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga nacional, Mourvèdre, Grenache noir and Pinot noir also being established. Producers are increasingly interested in cultivars that can also deliver good yields under dry conditions.

Crop expectations 2014 
With winter 2013 having been very cold and wet, the soil moisture levels are filled to field capacity, which is extremely important to an area prone to water shortage. The levels of catchment dams are the best in many years. Combined with the positive impact of the favourable post-harvest period, there is reason to hope for a good crop. In the long run the decrease in productive hectares will result in smaller crops, provided this trend persists.

Worcester (Pierre Snyman) 
Post-harvest period (April – May) 
It was a relatively good post-harvest period with late leaf fall. Very nippy conditions prevailed at the end of May and beginning of June, with precipitation of more than 60 mm being recorded. The first snowfall occurred during this period. There were few diseases, with oidium being spotted sporadically on the leaves of certain blocks.

Winter (June – August) 
Winter was severe with excellent showers, combined with typical Cape storms. Rainfall of 54 mm, 18 mm and 71 mm respectively were measured in June, July and August at the Nuy weather station. (The weather station does not have long term figures.)

The cold units for this period were also more than sufficient to ensure good dormancy and bud burst.

Spring (September – October) 
Spring was very cold. Bud burst was earlier than last year, but growth was slowed down by the persistent chilly weather. At the end of September the snow was still a thick blanket on the surrounding mountains. So far no reports of frost damage have been reported from the region.

Bud burst was generally even, with Shiraz still following its uneven pattern. Initial growth was a tad slow.

The only disease or pests that have been observed, is bud mite damage. This remains a matter of concern which may cause large crop losses. Erinose also appears to be a big problem right at the start of the season. The young leaves of Sauvignon blanc especially are covered in symptoms of erinose.

Grapevine planting statistics (SAWIS) 
Total grapevine plantings have increased by 88 ha since 2010, to 8 736 ha in 2012, with red cultivars comprising one third and white cultivars two thirds. Approximately 350 ha of vineyards were uprooted in 2012 with 264 ha plantings, compared to 340 ha uprootings and 274 plantings in 2011.

Approximately 77% of the total uprootings were red, and 67% of all plantings were red. Pinotage (30 ha), Shiraz (24 ha), Pinot Noir (12 ha) and Ruby Cabernet (10 ha) dominated the red plantings, while the most planted white cultivars were Chenin blanc (55 ha), Colombar (65 ha) and Muscat du Frontignan (11 ha).

Crop expectations 2014 
In 2011 275 ha vineyards were planted which will come into production in 2014, but approximately 365 ha vineyards were uprooted this year. The region nevertheless expects a net increase in tons.

Pruning is increasingly mechanised, whether by machine or simulated manually. The extent of this is unknown, but it will definitely impact positively on the region’s tonnage.

It is very early days yet to make a crop estimate based on what can be observed in the vineyards, but the general feeling is that sufficient flower clusters are present. This is probably the result of good suckering practices that impact positively on fertility, mild temperatures during the bunch initiation period, as well as sufficient cold in winter.

For the time being, taking the above factors into account, the estimate is that the crop size will be very close to that of 2013.

* Compiled in collaboration with VinPro Consultation Service.

To download: http://www.sawis.co.za/info/download/2013_District_conditions.pdf