Chile declares a state of agricultural emergency after frost ravaged the vineyards at the end of September. Was this the same cold snap that sent temperatures on the Orange plummeting to -5? Truly, Global Warming has arrived in the winelands of the Southern Hemisphere. Do the marketers at Du Toitskloof have crystal balls? Would look like it after choosing the effects of Global Climate Change as topic for the inaugural Du Toitskloof/Standard Bank Wine Writer of the Year Competition. Perhaps the topic next year should be “ethics in SA wine writing” although there would be very few entries.
Chile’s frost was the worst for 80 years but the Orange trumped that with the splendidly named Dirk Krapohl, manager of the Orange River Agricultural Union, telling Farmers’ Weekly “records showed it was the region’s coldest weather for this time of the year in 126 years.”
Most of the damage was caused to early budding table grapes for the European Christmas export market with Bacchus getting off rather lightly. “The wine grape vineyards had not really started budding at the time of the frost” according to Orange River Cellars viticulturalist Henning Burger. “Of the 4,000ha of wine grapes under production about 600ha had been lost amounting to an estimated income loss of R27 million and a production cost loss of R21 million. Burger expected that 1,200 seasonal workers from the wine grape industry may not be employed this season. ‘We will only be able to make accurate measurements in four to six weeks, but the information we have used gives us a good estimate of eventual losses,’ said Dirk.”
Perhaps Fairtrade and WIETA, the industry’s embattled ethical trading body, can step in and find new jobs for the Global Warming 1,200. A project for Vinpro to coordinate instead of playing politics.