Hope for South Africa’s Cape wine industry

Clouds hang above Groot Constantia, Western Cape, South Africa.
Photograph: Chris Snelling/ Wikimedia

Winemakers, tasters, and enthusiasts alike rejoice as South Africa’s third ban on the sale of alcohol is lifted.

The third ban, which was initially introduced on the 28th of December by South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, has had devastating effects on the country’s wine industry, according to local experts.

More than 21,000 South Africans have lost their jobs in the wake of the ban’s economic fallout. Considerable overstocking and a widespread lack of income has also led to the closure of many wineries. Local experts fear that, without government support, the country’s once booming wine industry could suffer further lasting damage (VinPro).

“We’re stuck with about 650 million litres of excess wine,” says local wine expert Janine van Zyl, who fears that overstocking as a result of the alcohol ban could become one of the industry’s greatest challenges to overcome in the coming months. Many wineries, she observes, are selling their wines below profit margins, just to make space for the coming harvest.

Janine, who is deeply embedded into the Cape’s wine and dine community, says that she has received pleas for help from struggling associates in other parts of the wine industry. “I have a lot of friends in the restaurant in the restaurant industry who had to close down their restaurants, that send me messages like ‘Listen Janine, I’m on the street right now’,” she remarks.

For the South African citizenry, the ban comes as a moral victory, following an excruciating year of lockdowns and restrictions. “The reason I buy alcohol, is to support the alcohol industry. Because I know that there are so many people who have lost their income, lost their jobs because of the bans we had,” says Marco van der Heever a student, and wine enthusiast, for whom the purchasing of wine is about more than just enjoyment.

Despite concerns from both the public and the vineyards themselves, a sense of optimism seems to have re-emerged in South Africa’s wine industry. Janine, along with other experts, feel that, in light of a swathe of wineries and restaurants reopening, and what looks to be one of the country’s greatest harvest seasons in years following substantial downpour over the holidays, not all is lost in the Cape of Good Hope.

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