Henning Burger, Manager of Viticultural Services at Orange River Cellars
The wine grape harvest in the lower Orange River Region has recovered
after two below average years, with the 2013 harvest poised to be a very
good one in terms of volumes and quality.
The size of the 2011 harvest was heavily affected by the some of the region's worst floods in decades, and last year's grape yields continued to be below average due to the fact that flood-ravaged vineyards were still struggling to recover from the damage inflicted.
According to Henning Burger, Manager of Viticultural Services at Orange River Cellars, the current harvest season appears to be meeting everyone's high expectations. "Although the official combined harvest estimate of our six cellars – Upington, Keimoes, Kanoneiland, Kakamas, Groblershoop and Grootdrink – is just over 135 000, we are hoping that the final total will be closer to the 140 000 mark," says Burger.
"The vineyards had a good rest during winter, which was marked by optimal cool conditions, especially in the evenings, and we also experienced a cool start to the summer. This allowed the grapes to develop slowly after a constistent and even budding and fruit set period," he says. "Although we had slight frost damage due to the cool spring, the vineyards are radiantly healthy, which is one of the outstanding characteristics of the Orange River Region."
The first significant amounts of grapes were received during the first week of February, and given the warmer current conditions, Burger expects that a busy period awaits the cellar staff as the grapes start to ripen quickly. "In such conditions one does reach a bottleneck stage as the early white cultivars and some of the reds, like Pinotage, take longer to fully ripen. The heat can also result in the early ripening of the red cultivars, which is normally expected later in the season."
Burger says that the 20 000 tons of table grapes which were allocated to the cellars provide a welcome bonus which will help to boost juice and concentrated grape juice production. One of Orange River Celllars' strongest attributes however, is logistics, planning and organisational ability, which enables the cellars to successfully manage the busiest of times.
"Volumes obviously play a significant role in serving our markets and realising value for our members, yet grape and wine quality remains critically important," says Burger. "Despite the challenges which have limited the volumes of our cellars in the previous two years, the quality of grapes received from our members continues to improve every year. This can be attributed to the excellent strategic co-operation between our viticulturists and members, which has helped to elevate the reputation of Orange River Cellars as a quality wine producer to a new orbit. Consequently we now see good bunches of grapes, with balanced pH, sugar and acidity levels, which is ideal for the production of quality wines."
According to Koos Visser, marketing manager of Orange River Cellars, the news of a big 2013 harvest truly is music to the ears of the production team. "The demand for Orange River Cellars wines has increased over the past five years thanks to the expansion of our reputation as quality wine producer and the development of new markets in South Africa and abroad," says Visser. "However, clients do not only require quality, but also the assurance of sufficient volumes to continuously meet their demands. Therefore this year's harvest, which is expected to be 20% bigger than the previous year, is exceptionally good news for all concerned."
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