The mountains in our valley have now received their first snowfall. The mercury has fallen, and there is a distinct chill in the air. For the wineries in the Cape though, it is more a case of being in the Deep Freeze. South Africa had, for the fifth time since Covid began, banned the sale of alcohol.
A survey conducted by Vinpro (an industry representative body) during July found that 38% of wineries would be unable to survive a six-week ban (which looked to be the potential length of the ban period at one point). According to Vinpro’s Managing Director, Rico Basson, the wine industry and its employees are in dire straits. An arbitrary alcohol ban – the only one in the world and with no government assistance – is crippling the industry and risks long-term irreversible damage. Meanwhile, the government continues to fail to provide any empirical evidence to back its decisions. Times are truly tough.
On the farm, the vineyard removals have been completed. This has left Rondekop and the adjacent Riverland blocks looking quite bare. As mentioned last month, this is the best way forward for our ambitious future plans for the farm, but seeing the now-empty fields does tug at the heartstrings a bit.
As we enter August, we move to one of the most critical interventions we make on our vines: pruning. We will also be planting the new Merlot and Chardonnay blocks on Rondekop soon. It will be great to have the new vines in the ground, though they will require large amounts of TLC to get them established in their early years – just like children!
During winter, we are also working on a regeneration project. In conjunction with a French firm looking to earn environmental credits, the aim is to return a portion of the farm to original indigenous vegetation. We provide the land and irrigation, and they provide the planting material. It will be very exciting to watch how this develops. At the same time, we have another major project on the go: removing all the alien vegetation around the farm. In July, we completed the 1km stretch of river we have, and slowly (very slowly – over the course of years), we are managing to return this part of the farm to a more natural state. If you ever fancy a walk around (the stretch of river is particularly pretty to stroll along) to see some of the things we are doing, please get in touch.
In the South African wine industry, there are two sizeable elephants in the room. Both happen to be viruses. One is Covid-19. The other is leafroll. Both equally capable of inflicting serious damage to our wine industry. Without effective governance, there is no telling what could happen. Unfortunately, the situation looks to be on a negative trajectory. We potentially risk losing significant parts of the most exciting wine story the world has seen – the amazing story of South African wines. I hope that I am wrong, but elephants on the rampage are dangerous beasts. They need to be brought under control.
Things are a little tough in South Africa at the moment. But we believe that the darkest hour is passing, and that we will see improvements, and a return to normal. At Oldenburg, we are working hard to navigate our way through these tough times. We remain committed to our goals, and focused on our path and journey. We have a deep appreciation for you, our customers, and your loyal support. We are ready to welcome you all back, as we are once again Open for Business.