VITICULTURISTS CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC …
Recent volatile weather patterns have kept farmers guessing all year, but as the Cape winter draws to a close, viticulturists are relatively up-beat about predictions for the forthcoming harvest.
According to VinPro viticulturist Hanno van Schalkwyk, there was great relief when post-harvest rains started over a large part of the Cape Winelands in April this year, earlier than the norm but necessary after the low rainfall of the 2015 winter and long, hot summer. This was short-lived however, as May turned out to be unusually warm and dry, causing budburst in several vineyards.
Nonetheless, the good rains from mid-June to July made up for the unusual May weather, and figures for August are seemingly on track. It was also cold enough to lull the vineyards back into dormancy and give them time to replenish before the next harvest.
According to Van Schalkwyk: “Soil water levels in the root zone look better than this time last year, but further rain is needed to replenish deep soil layers, especially where boreholes are used. The levels of the larger dams are looking better, but the Theewaterskloof, Brandvlei and Voelvlei dams are still only about 50% full, so we’re hoping for more rain.”
The situation is a little different up north in the Olifants River region where farmers rely on irrigation and the Clanwilliam Dam, their main water supply, is 98% full. According to VinPro’s viticulturist for that area, Gert Engelbrecht, farmers suffered under water restrictions at the beginning of the year when dam levels reached alarmingly low levels, but thanks to good rains, and irrigation of vineyards during the winter, the ground water levels should be fully replenished.
Further East in the Breede River Valley the situation also looks promising. As these vineyards are irrigated as well, the dam levels are more important than the rainfall figure, but overall the farm dams are filling up nicely says viticulturist Leon Dippenaar.
“So in a nutshell, winter 2016 has been good so far, but late rains are needed to replenish deep soil layers and increase larger dam levels,” concludes Van Schalkwyk.
Text: Julia Moore & Foto: Petra Mayer