Heavy showers and hail “as big as golf balls” earlier this week hit some producers in Montagu and outlying areas hard in the midst of the 2019 wine grape harvest season.
Heavy rainfall occurred on Sunday and Monday, 10 and 11 March, with a large hail storm causing damage to cars, houses and solar panels and various crops on Monday evening in Montagu and north towards Baden. Hail stones ranged from the size of marbles to as large as golf balls, reported the Cape Times.
According to Hennie Visser, Vinpro viticulturist in the Robertson and Klein Karoo regions, the Nuy valley also experienced hail, but no extensive damages were reported.
The rainfall and hail comes at a specifically difficult time, as many wine grape producers in this region is just more than half way done with harvesting this year’s grape crop.
WATCH how the recent hail came down in buckets in Montagu:
(video credit: Hermias Vollgraaff)
Where hail damage was recorded, producers are now sending in their harvesting teams to salvage the remaining grapes.
“Despite the obvious losses and damage to grapevines due to the hail, the rainfall at this critical time during harvest can cause botrytis rot in the existing grape bunches, which is the biggest risk right now,” says Hennie.
The cool weather and moisture also cause the sugar levels to drop, which affect the ripeness and time of harvesting. “We’re hoping that the warmer weather being forecast later this week, along with any wind, will dry out the soils and vines quicker and the sugar levels will pick up again. But in the meantime, we’re closely monitoring for botrytis and harvesting before it can set in,” says Hennie.
Fortunately most Chenin Blanc wine grape have already been harvested – a cultivar that is particularly susceptible to botrytis – but other cultivars such as Colombar, Shiraz and Ruby Cabernet still remain vulnerable.
Wine grape producers in the Montagu area diversify into other crops such as deciduous fruit and citrus, which were also affected by these severe weather conditions.
The official South African Harvest Report will be issued by Vinpro on 7 May 2019.
View our gallery below to see the the aftermath of the recent hailstorm in Montagu: