Wine grape producers adapt for sustainability

21 September 2021.

South African wine grape and wine producers continue to adapt to economic pressures and the effects of climate change to ensure their own sustainability, and that of the wine industry.

These and other insights were shared at the Winetech Vinpro Regional Information Days from 7 to 14 September 2021. Close to 200 people attended the sessions in Paarl, Stellenbosch, Worcester, Robertson and Olifants River.

 Focus on the positive

The South African wine industry has been under great financial pressure since the start of Covid-19 due to the previous and current restrictions on liquor sales and wine tourism, as well as the resulting carry-over stock that have an effect on price points. But, says Christo Conradie of Vinpro, now is the time to focus on the positive and build on it. “Our current export figures are looking good – even better than in 2019 – in terms of volume, but especially value growth. South Africa’s cultivar wines are doing particularly well in overseas markets, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.”

There is also a revival in the planting of new vineyards, with about 2 000 ha that are estimated to be established by the end of 2021. “These vines are being planted on a large scale by producers across the wine grape growing regions, with different business models – from producer to private cellars. More importantly, it’s the right cultivars that are being planted on the most appropriate sites for the specific wine purpose. We can definitely draw inspiration from this,” Christo says.

With an increase in consumers’ awareness of ethical and environmentally friendly practices, South African wine businesses can benefit from emphasising their participation in the industry’s ethical trade accreditation (Wieta). “A total of 72% of the 2021 wine grape crop, and 77% of our 92 000 ha under vineyards are Wieta certified. We can proudly build on this and spread the message to an international audience.”

Buffer yourself against climate change

Climate change is a reality. According to Dr Etienne Neethling of Vintage Master and Grappe-Esa-Inra in France, an increasing number of wine grape producers from around the globe are observing the effects of climate change on their farms, and making adjustments in their vineyard practices.

According to a survey among 3 625 wine grape producers in 18 countries, 84% of the respondents are observing signs of climate change, including an increase in average winter and summer temperatures and the occurrence of unusual droughts, hail and frost in certain regions. Wine grape vineyard’ phenological stages are kicking off earlier than normal and some countries have recorded smaller yields which they attribute to climate change.

The producers who took part in the survey provided diverse feedback on the adjustments they plan on making in the vineyard to buffer the effects of climate change, including cultivar selection, irrigation practices, disease and crop control, as well as soil management.

Best irrigation practices

Scarce water resources can be managed efficiently, while at the same time producing good yields and quality in the vineyard. “Producers can use a number of tools to guide them in terms of irrigation scheduling,” says Dr Philip Myburgh of ARC Nietvoorbij. “Large volumes of water have been saved without compromising quality or production.”

“To measure is to know,” says Francois Viljoen of Vinpro’s Gen-Z Vineyard Project. Various aids are available to measure the water status in the soil and plant, including evapotranspiration measurements and the use of soil samples, soil moisture meters, tensiometers, pressure bombs, stem shrinkage measurements and remote sensing by means of infrared thermography. “There are pro’s and cons to the respective tools, but ultimately they must form part of an integrated approach,” Philip says.

According to Francois, an irrigation program must first consider the specific wine end goal of the specific vineyard block. If the wine grapes are intended for premium wines, smaller amounts of water will be applied less frequently than, for example, in wine grape blocks whose grapes are intended for bulk wine. In addition to the various devices available to measure soil and plant water status, growers should also look at physical signs of water stress in the vineyard, and consider weather forecasts before scheduling their irrigation.

“Most importantly producers need to do their homework thoroughly and use the available data to make smart decisions in the vineyard,” Philip says.

Control diseases and pests wisely

By applying disease and pest control judiciously, wine grape producers can save costs, reduce resistance to these chemicals and limit their chemical footprint. According to Marius Ras of Ras Consulting, a spray programme must adjust its droplet size, solution volume and the air momentum of the spraying equipment according to the leaf density and target depth. “The ultimate goal is for the fungicide or pesticide to cling to the vine surface. If the drops are too large, it will bounce off the surface,” Marius says. He advises producers to use less than 1 000 litres of solution per hectare for disease and pest control, to ensure optimal atomisation, transfer and deposition.

“There are not many chemicals available to the wine industry, and if used repeatedly, diseases and pests can quickly build up resistance to them,” says Brahm Jonker of fieldBUGS. “We must therefore use the insecticides we have at our disposal responsibly by following a more integrated approach that combines biological control and ‘softer’ chemicals.”

Mealy bugs are one of the hardiest vine pests that quickly build up resistance to chemicals. “Fortunately, they cannot build up resistance by being eaten by biological predators such as the wasps Anagyrus pseudococci and Coccidoxenoides perminutus or the so-called ‘mealybug destroyer’ Cryptolaemus montrouzieri,” Brahm says.

Winetech and Vinpro host the regional information sessions annually in May and September to share the latest technology, best practices and research with wine grape growers, viticulturists and other stakeholders. “It is important for us to constantly exchange this knowledge in the industry, so that we can continuously apply world standards in vineyard management and thus ensure a more sustainable and responsible industry going forward. We are grateful to Winetech for making these days possible,” says Conrad Schutte of Vinpro.

Click here for a video recap of the Winetech Vinpro Regional Info days:


Issued by:                    Vinpro

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Wanda Augustyn

Tel: 021 276 0458


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Wine news: South Africa’s Sauvignon Blanc impresses with quality, versatility

6 September 2021.

World class, interesting and full of expression of the specific terroir are some of the features that the judges of South African Sauvignon Blanc are excited about. The judges of the 2021 edition of the Sauvignon Blanc SA Top 10 competition were immensely impressed with the quality, excellent winemaking techniques and complexity across various vintages and styles.

 A total of 157 wines from 96 producers were tasted by a select panel of judges from Tuesday 31 August to Thursday 2 September at Uitkyk Estate in Stellenbosch. This year’s competition is presented with the support of FNB and EVER Solutions.

The judging panel consisted of Dr Winifred Bowman, Cape Wine Master and panel convener, Charles Hopkins, cellar master at De Grendel, wine judge and author Fiona McDonald, Rüdger van Wyk, winemaker at Stark-Condé Wines, Johann Fourie, chief winemaker at Benguela Cove, as well as two protégé judges, Kelsey Shungking of Mullineux and Leeu and Victoria Davis of Boekenhoutskloof.

“Sauvignon Blanc is an important wine category in South Africa,” says Dr Winifred Bowman. “A total of 4.4 million boxes (of 6 bottles) are consumed annually on local soil. We were highly impressed with the quality of the wines, and especially the fact that there were very few faulty wines throughout.”

The biggest category during this year’s judging was of the 2021 vintage with unwooded wines. “The 2021 vintage performed particularly well,” says Johann Fourie. “There were very few faulty wines due to better fermentation management by winemakers, as well as all the research that the suppliers of wine chemicals, yeasts and nutrients undertake to deliver the best product to the winemaker.”

 This year’s wines produced a variety of Sauvignon Blanc flavours that particularly impressed Rüdger van Wyk. “These differences in expression make Sauvignon Blanc a very interesting grape variety to work with.”

Acids were also well-integrated, according to Fiona McDonald. “The wines this year showed a lovely freshness with well-resolved acidity. What we are now seeing is delicate and charming wines that offer more than just lemon or citrus flavours. They are nuanced with subtle notes of tropical fruits or blackcurrant/elderflower.”

As for the wooded classes, the judges agreed that there was good management of wood. “The older wooded wines showed better because they were held back for a year or so before entering competitions to make the wine perform at its best,” says Charles Hopkins. “South Africa makes world class wooded Sauvignon Blanc and it is something we can rightly be proud of,” adds Bowman.

This year, custom technology has once again been used on tablets to make the process Covid-19 friendly, faster and more accurate. Scores were fully captured while wine profiles and more useful cultivar information were collected in collaboration with the Department of Viticulture and Oenology of Stellenbosch University. The panel of judges also agreed that this technology is definitely safer, more eco-friendly and accurate, and paves the way for judging into the future.

2021 is the first year that the protégés were fully part of the judging of the competition and the daily discussions, as well as the final tasting of the winning wines were extremely valuable for knowledge transfer and the personal growth of the future wine judges of this country.

“It was an incredible learning curve and experience to be part of the judging process as a young winemaker,” says protégé Kelsey Shunking. “This opportunity helps me to understand the industry standards in terms of quality, as well as gain more knowledge of the styles we make in South Africa.”

The Sauvignon Blanc SA Top 10 competition – which has been presented since 2007 – will announce the Top 20 finalists later this month. The Top 10 will be announced during an awards ceremony on Wednesday 13 October 2021. A technical seminar that conveys information about the Top 10 will be held on Wednesday 17 November 2021 in Franschhoek.

Sauvignon Blanc SA promotes South African Sauvignon Blanc’s quality locally and internationally. Anyone can become a member of Sauvignon Blanc SA, to enjoy the benefits of shared expertise. For more information, or to subscribe to the Sauvignon Blanc SA newsletter, visit or call 021 975 4440. Join social media discussions on the #SauvignonBlancSATop10 and follow Sauvignon Blanc SA on Twitter as @SauvignonSA and on Facebook and Instagram as @sauvignonblancsa.


Media inquiries

Isabeau Botha

Agri-Expo Corporate Communications Manager

072 247 5868

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3 September 2021. The South African Table Grape Industry (SATI) hereby announces that AJ Griesel has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the organisation.

Wine industry information days focus on sustainability

24 August 2021.

Winetech and Vinpro will shine the spotlight on sustainability in the wine industry during a series of regional information days from 7 to 14 September 2021.

JOIN US as we discuss various aspects of sustainability, including the economy, climate change, best irrigation practices, effective spray application and the use of natural predators.

The information days are being presented physically for the first time, after being held in a webinar format since the onset of Covid-19. Only a limited number of seats are available and strict safety protocols will apply. Environmentally friendly vineyard practices include the use of natural predators as part of a vineyard management plan, which Brahm Jonker of fieldBUGS will elaborate on.


  • Status of the South African wine industry.
  • The wine world’s approach towards climate change.
  • Best irrigation practices & case studies.
  • Factors that influence effective spray application.
  • The use of natural predators in vineyard management.

Dates (click for more):
7 Sept, 09:00 – Paarl/Swartland
7 Sept, 14:00 – Stellenbosch/Coastal region
8 Sept, 09:00 – Robertson/Klein Karoo
8 Sept, 14:00 – Worcester/Breedekloof
14 Sept, 18:00 – Olifants River

Costs and registration:
The attendance fee for the respective regional information days range from R150 to R250 per person. Register online at or contact Lesley Paulse at 021 276 0429,

Kind regards,

tel:      +27 (0)21 276 0429
Vinpro, Cecilia Street, Suider Paarl, 7646