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“For the fourth year in a row we are faced with another very dry growing season in the Cape Winelands, and this year it is starting to show.

Although some vineyards are back on par this year, mainly due to fuller dams and more boreholes, this is not a sustainable way to farm. The dryland vineyards are really struggling, especially the old vineyards, contrary to popular belief. In the Paarl and Swartland regions it is a particularly light Cinsaut crop, with little to no answers as to why, with odd climate patterns as the only answer.  Varieties that still thrive in this climate, although things are quite tough, is Chenin blanc, Pinotage, Grenache noir and Grenache blanc.

Stellenbosch seems to have a medium to good crop, with the younger, leafroll virus free vineyards really coming through in yield and quality. The older, leafroll ridden vineyards are suffering, maybe a hint that their era is over, and the drive to “clean” vineyards and the economic sustainability of these vineyards, becoming more evident.

The cooler regions like Elgin really seem to enjoy these rather “drier” summers, with less vigour in these vineyards leaning them to even greater quality. The Pinot Noirs are really good, with the Sauvignon blancs and Chardonnays also showing great potential.

The only thing that really hit home this year, is soil health and organic matter in the soils. Vineyards, where a drive towards healthier soils, with composting and better microbe management, are at the forefront of the battle and really performed well in these difficult years.

To adapt in this difficult climatic environment, we must focus on healthy, leafroll virus free vineyards, with well buffered soils, less and less chemicals and proper cover crop strategies, because without soils, the only drink we will enjoy in future is desalinated sea water…”

-an overview by Jaco Engelbrecht a “new” generation viticulturalist and founder of Visual Viticulture

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