Wine drinkers may yet feel the impact of the Western Cape drought in their pockets, with prices set for painful hikes.
Vineyards have seen the smallest crop in 13 years. Water restrictions meant less irrigation, which directly impacts yield. Bulk-wine growers have been hit the hardest, but boutique farms have been affected the water shortage too. Yields appear to be down between 10% in some areas, and in others as much as 50%.
In March, wine producers hiked their prices by between 8% and 15%, says Judy Brower, director of the online platform Wine.co.za.
“The wines being sold now are not wines produced this year - so we are likely to see prices increase again next year by at least the same amount, but I predict it is likely to be a higher percentage next year and the year after, when the red wines reach the market,” said Brower.
“The cost of production is also increasing and for the wine industry to be fully financially sustainable, it will need to keep increasing its prices.” she added. “Experts say that prices have to increase by 30% for the industry to be sustainable.”
Production costs have doubled in the last ten years and the minimum wage for farm workers is set to increase by 17% in May, says Francois Viljoen, manager of viticultural consultation service Vinpro.
If wine producers hiked their prices by only a 15% margin as this year, a bottle like the ever popular Nederburg Baronne which currently costs R65 on Cybercellar will cost as much as R75 next year.
A 2017 bottle of Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Chenin Blanc Bush Vine is currently also very affordable at R55 on CyberCellar, but next year the same bottle could cost R64.
The popular but pricey Meerlust Merlot is selling for R309 on getwine.co.za today, but this time next year consumers will be paying as much as R355 for the same bottle, while a bottle of Waterford Estate Chardonnay will go up by about R37, to R287.
Because red wines age well, it would seem that now is the time to buy red wines and save in the years to come.
Try to find a 2015 vintage, is the advice of Jean Vincent Ridon, sommelier and coach of SA’s wine tasting team. “It is a great vintage, one of the best of the last years, if not decades. It is a great time to purchase classic wines like Kanonkop or Meerlust 2015.”
Master sommelier at the exclusive Cape Town hotel Ellerman House, Manuel Cabello, advises red wine drinkers who want to save on wine costs in the years ahead, stick to what they know, ask for advice and look for cultivars that can age. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are good bets.
“If you really want to keep wine for a while, then be sure to have the proper space to age, constant temperature and humidity through the year,” Cabello advises. “The last thing you want is to invest in a good bottle of wine and find that it has gone bad, because of poor storage,” he says.