Photographer: Ken Gerhardt/Getty Images/Gallo Images

Fewer Grapes for South African Wine as El Nino Damages Harvest

  • Abnormal heat and water shortages lead to crop-estimate cut
  • Wine-grape crop size is estimated at 1.38 million tons in 2016

South Africa’s wine-grape crop will probably be the smallest since 2011 after El Nino caused excess heat and dry weather, industry body VinPro said.

The crop is seen declining 6.7 percent to 1.38 million metric tons in 2016, the Paarl, Western Cape province-based organization said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday. That would be the least since 2011, when the country’s output was 1.30 million tons, data from the South African Wine Industry Information and Systems show. The wine harvest -- which includes juice and concentrate for non-alcoholic purposes, wine for brandy and distilling wine -- may be 1.07 million liters, it said.

Even with the wine-grape crop being smaller, "the industry still managed to reach higher productions than initially expected following a season characterized by abnormal heat and water shortages,” Francois Viljoen, manager of VinPro’s viticulture consultation service, said in the statement.

The country, which is a net exporter of agricultural products, last year had the least rainfall since records started in 1904, damaging crops such as corn, citrus and peanuts. It is the world’s seventh-largest producer of wine and has almost 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of vineyards, mostly in the Western Cape. The nation’s first wine was produced in 1659, according to industry group Wines of South Africa, and the industry now employs about 300,000 people.

The smaller berries will lead to good color and intense flavor in this year’s red wines, VinPro said. “The white wines also appear surprisingly good, with great structure and good flavors,” it said.

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