Wine Grape Growing in South Africa

© Louise Brodie
A wine farm near Slanghoek in the Rawsonville district near Worcester in the Western Cape.
The first grapevine was planted in 1659, just after the Dutch landed in the Cape to establish a fresh produce station on the southern tip of Africa. Since then, South Africa's grape industry has grown to more than 10 000 producers, more than half of whom produce wine grapes.

South Africa has become a major player in the world's wine industry and produces a range of wines, from light table wines and full-bodied red wines to Methode Champenoise and Port-wine style wines.

SouthAfrica.co.za presents a range of easy-to-read articles on viticulture in South Africa, inspired by South African research and training material. This is translated in all 11 South African languages, enabling more new farmers and workers to understand and participate in the art of wine grape growing in South Africa.

Bacterial and Viral Diseases in Grapes

Viral diseases can be found in any wine-growing region and the occurrence depends on the virus status of the plant material. Plant material can be made virus-free by heat treatment....more

Canopy Management

Canopy management is the process where the vine shoots and leaves are managed in such a way that a good production of the right quality for the different types of wine is obtained....more

Choice of Cultivar

When selecting a specific Cultivar, it should be remembered that the Cultivar may also have one or more clones. Some clones ripen earlier or may have bigger bunches and can therefore yield more grapes....more

Cover Crops

Cover Crops are planted between vineyards, often in a rotation system from one year to another. The choice of Cover Crops is mainly determined by the soil type and the wine grape cultivar that has been planted....more

Establishing of a Vineyard

The expected lifespan of a vineyard is over twenty years so it is important to ask the right experts for advice. You should look at the suitability of the soil - is it suitable for wine grapes or should another crop be considered?...more

Fertility of a Vineyard

The fertility of a vineyard is determined by the budburst. Favourable conditions include enough nutrients, direct sunlight, temperatures above 20°C and a ground temperature above 10°C....more

Grape Fungal Diseases

A fungus is a microscopically small plant-like organism. Fungal spores are blown or splashed onto the wet vine leaf, cane or grape bunch and germinate under humid conditions....more

Grape Fungal Diseases - Dead Arm and Botrytis

Dead arm disease is caused by the Phomopsis viticola fungus. Botrytis begins as a light brown discoloration of the grape skin....more

Grape Fungal Diseases - Eutypa Dieback and Black Goo

Eutypa dieback is caused by the Eutypa lata fungus. The result is wood decay with the consequent death of the vines. Black Goo is one of several fungal diseases currently present in South Africa....more

Grape Fungal Diseases - Mildew

Powdery mildew also called oidium, is caused by the fungus Uncinula necator and is considered to be the most serious grapevine fungal disease....more

Grape Pest Control

The control of diseases and pests is one of the biggest expenses in wine farming and control measures require the producer to use only certain registered sprays....more

Grape Pests

The most damaging pests of wine grapes are grapevine mealy bugs, snout beetles and ants. These pests also have a close relationship with each other because the chemical control of one can kill the natural enemies of the other....more

Grape Pests - Ants and Grapevine Mealybugs

These two pests are discussed together, since ants and grapevine mealybugs are usually related and may indicate the presence of the other. Grapevine mealybugs also spread grapevine leafroll disease....more

Grape Pests - Margarodes

The margarode is a scale insect that attacks the roots of the vines, usually 40 to 60 cm deep. The first symptom of a margarode infection is poor growth, usually found in sections of the vineyard....more

Grape Pests - Mites

The three types of mites that occur in vineyards are the bud mite, leaf curl mite and erinose mite, of which the bud mite causes the greatest damage....more

Grape Pests - Snails and Grasshoppers

Different snails are found in the Western Cape, for example, the brown garden snail, white dune snail and the banded conical snail. Long-horned grasshoppers are cricket-like flying insects that severely damage vineyards....more

Grape Pests - Snout Beetle

The most common snout beetle in wine grapes is the Phlyctinus callosus. The insect attacks the buds, leaves, vine shoots and grape bunches and eats holes in the leaves and shoots....more

Grapevine Training

The purpose of grapevine training is to ensure the vines’ cordon arms are equally long and thick and evenly positioned on the cordon wire....more

Minimum Tillage

A study has found that minimum tillage results in a larger development of soil microbes in the undisturbed sub-layers of the soil than in a vineyard where vineyard rows have been cleaned....more

Mulching

Mulching is the process of covering the ground surface or berm (soil strip directly below the vine row) with any dead plant material such as vine cuttings, grape skins, straw and even rooibos tea....more

Planting of Grapes

Grapevines are usually planted by the end of winter during July and August. The vines should be planted with the graft union about 5 cm above the ground surface and the roots pointing downwards and spread out....more

Pruning

The main purpose of pruning is to get and maintain the desired vine shape for the vineyard for as long as possible. In this way, the trellis system is optimally utilized. Secondly, the correct pruning ensures that a good quality crop is delivered....more

Safe Handling of Sprays

Spray operators have to undergo a medical examination annually. During the management of diseases and pests it should always be remembered that safe and quality food products must be provided....more

Soil Preperation

Soil preparation is the cultivation of the soil before the vineyard is established. One of the most important objectives of soil preparation is to get the soil as even as possible to ensure that the vines is even in terms of quality and ripening....more

Soil Types for a Vineyard

Soil types in South Africa differ greatly. Some are very sandy, others have more clay and then there is rocky soil. Soil differs not only in appearance and colour, but also according to the nutrients and water-holding capacity....more

The Harvesting of Wine Grapes

Before harvesting it is important to set up a harvesting plan. This harvesting plan will include the expected harvest (in tonnes), estimated harvest date, amount of workers needed, rental of equipment and cost of transport of grapes to the wine cellar....more

Tillage

Tillage is the mechanical agitation of the soil in a vineyard and is usually associated with the loosening and overturning of the soil. It ensures a clean surface around the rootstocks and eliminates weeds....more

Trellising

The benefits of trellising include better light intensity in the vines and improved bud fertility. Various trellis systems are currently being used in the industry....more

Weeds in Vineyards

In dryland vineyards there will be mostly winter and spring-growing weeds and in irrigated areas it is mainly grasses and reeds....more

When are Grapes Harvested?

After 12 months of caring for the vineyard, it becomes time to harvest. This usually happens from the beginning or mid-January, depending on the cultivar....more

When are Wine Grapes Ripe?

To determine the ripeness of wine grapes, both the individual grape berries as well as bunches are tested to determine indicators of ripeness....more

Why Composting is Important

Compost is decomposed organic material that is applied to serve as nutrients for the soil microbes but not the plant. The effect of compost on a plant’s growth can continue over several seasons....more