2018 Southern Hemisphere Vintage Report
In contrast to the Northern Hemisphere and due to the large distances between the major wine producing countries, there is little reason to expect consistency across the vintage. That said, in 2018 most of the Southern Hemisphere has had a successful harvest. Argentina and Chile saw a return to form following a couple of difficult years, whilst Australia is celebrating an extremely high quality vintage. New Zealand faced challenges due to high temperatures and late rains, but careful work in the vineyard helped to ensure that a good crop of high-quality grapes was brought in. Even South Africa, where the well-publicised drought caused much concern for many growers, was able to produce good wines where water was available and where dry-farmed old vines were better equipped to cope with the stress.
Reports from Down Under are positive, with a warm dry growing season and beneficial conditions during harvest leading to predictions of high quality wines from all regions. Overall volumes are down on the bumper 2017 harvest, but not to such a significant degree so as to cause any major concerns. Producers in Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Barossa and Margeret River are hailing this as a vintage to remember, with Shiraz expected to be a particular highlight.
The 2018 vintage in New Zealand will certainly go down as one of the warmest on record, with above-average temperatures in all regions. These high temperatures, combined with the heavy rains in January and February brought by Cyclone Gita, meant that the decision around when to harvest was absolutely crucial. The risk of rot was very real, so careful vineyard management was an absolute necessity. Picking began and finished much earlier than usual, with the harvest season far more compressed than as well. Nonetheless, where these challenges were well managed, high-quality wines will be produced.
Following on from the wet 2016 and the hot 2017, 2018 can largely be characterised as a cool, dry vintage, finishing later two to four weeks later than the norm. We can expect to see wines with elegance, finesse and lower alcohol levels, both for reds and whites. The total volume harvested was around ten per cent up on the previous vintage in the interior regions, with the coastal regions production largely in line with the long term average.
Brazil’s wine industry is concentrated in the south on the high Serra Gaúcha in the Rio Grande do Sul state, where relatively cool winters and warm dry summers make the cultivation of vines possible. Harvest traditionally commences earlier here than in most other Southern Hemisphere countries, with the first bunches normally picked in January. Following a warm winter, lower-than-average rainfall during the season and cooler nights helped ensure that the grapes ripened well with good sugar levels and deep colours, whilst retaining good levels of acidity.
The 2018 harvest in Argentina will yield volumes in line with the long term average – much needed after two short years. This represents an increase of over thirty percent over the difficult 2017 vintage. In addition to the good volumes, quality is also expected to be high. A warm spring ensured good fruit set and a moderately warm and dry summer was followed by cooler weather during the harvest months. Rainfall was low throughout the season and there was plenty of sunshine to ensure even ripening of healthy grapes, both red and white.
The Cape’s much-publicised drought during the summer months has undoubtedly had a significant effect on the 2018 vintage for many producers, with the rainbow nation expecting its smallest harvest for thirteen years. The biggest effect will have been felt by bulk wine producers who tend to rely more on irrigation, but overall a fifteen percent deficit on 2017 is expected. The effects of drought were compounded by frosts in the winter as well as the long term trend for farmers to uproot vines to replace them with more profitable crops. Ultimately quality will be high across the board, but access to water was critical to ensuring reasonable yields were harvested – those without will be feeling the pinch.
A full report is available to download here.