May 2, 2018 / 11:36 AM / 6 months ago

South African wine-maker Distell sees lower crop amid drought

CAPE TOWN, May 2 (Reuters) - South African alcohol beverages maker Distell Group’s 2018 wine grape harvest was 30 percent down on the previous year due to drought in the Western Cape but grape quality was promising, its head winemaker said on Wednesday.

South Africa has declared Western Cape and other regions as disaster areas as a prolonged dry spell decimated the wheat crop and reduced apple, grape and pear exports to Europe.

“The ongoing drought in the Cape has certainly had an impact on this year’s harvest,” Niël Groenewald said in a statement.

“We have seen slower ripening of the grapes than usual due to smaller canopies, limited water in the soils and that which is available for irrigation,” he said.

Distell accounts for just under a third of total wine production in South Africa, with nearly a quarter of all grapes procured from its own farms. Among its premium wine portfolio are well-established brands such as Nederburg.

Global wine output fell to its lowest level in 60 years in 2017 due to poor weather conditions in the European Union that slashed production in the bloc, international wine organisation OIV said.

South Africa, which is the eight largest wine producer in the world, was seen producing 10.8 million hectolitres in 2017, up three percent from the previous year, the OIV said in April.

“What is evident is that South African wine grape growers and producers need to accelerate efforts to adapt to conditions of the drought. This is the new normal,” Groenewald said. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf Editing by Edmund Blair)

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