A guide to the 2016 harvest: South Africa

South African wine makerThe 2016 harvest in South Africa will be remembered as one of the hottest, driest seasons in the past decade. It was also significantly smaller than the past three years, with grapes ripening in quick succession – making for a frantic couple of months! But despite this year’s challenges, quality levels seem to be good across the board.

According to South African viticultural consultation service VinPro, the 2016 season truly tested winemakers’ skills. “In general, the acidity and alcohol levels were quite low and winemakers needed to be smart in order to obtain good quality wines. However, smaller berries that resulted from the dry conditions could lead to concentrated flavours, while lower alcohol wines will be well received by the market.”

Here is a round-up of the harvest by a few of our South African producers:

Graham Beck

With fantastic conditions during spring and a relatively warm December, grapes ripened a lot earlier, resulting in fast and furious picking. Robertson, Elgin, Durbanville and Slanghoek Valley produced top quality, with bright varietal characters on the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – perfect for the range of Methode Cap Classique sparkling wines.


This was one of the most difficult vintages in a very long time and the driest in Stellenbosch in about 100 years. The harvest kicked off speedily, with 70% of grapes harvested by mid-February, while the rest took until 24 March to ripen. The drier season led to healthier vineyards, with a low prevalence of fungal diseases and pests, while the smaller berries showed good concentration.


Despite slightly warmer and drier conditions on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge in Walker Bay from the end of November to the middle of January, it became cooler and more ‘normal’ towards the end of January. The area didn’t suffer the heatwaves and drought conditions experienced in some other regions, and while it was slightly warmer – resulting in an earlier harvest – quality was good. Watch owner and cellarmaster Jean-Claude Martin discuss the 2016 harvest. 

Find out more about the 2016 harvest across the rest of the Southern Hemisphere.

11th May 2016

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