Nasty little wine rumour based on dubious data

AN ALARMING story, that the world is facing a wine drought, has been doing the rounds. Harvests are down, producers can't make enough wine to meet market demands, and prices are going to spike, so the story goes.

But, before you rush out to stock up your cellar – relax! There's more to this story than meets the eye.

The supposedly looming shortage was mainly in Europe, where production had fallen over the past half-dozen years due to bad weather and poor harvests.

For the SA wine industry, this was actually good news. A bumper harvest last year allowed us to fill the gap in Europe and saw our wine exports hit a record high.

That gap apparently, amounted to a worldwide shortage of 300-million cases in 2012. But some journalists and bloggers smelt a rat in the cellar and dug a little deeper.

A report in the BBC's online news magazine tells how the report that sparked the talk of a "wine crisis" originated from the Australian division of investment bank Morgan Stanley – a bank that, interestingly, was at the time punting shares in an Australian wine company.

The report was based on data from the French-based industry organisation OIV, which represents producers in 45 countries, but it seemed to have played a little fast 'n loose with the data.

The 300-million-case shortage that briefly had wine lovers, collectors and writers with their corkscrews all in a twist, actually included non-alcoholic wines and non-wine products like vinegar. The OIV reported that, when only wine was counted – there was in fact a small surplus in 2012, and things were looking good for last year. The report also used the OVI's data only up to 2012, although last year's data was already available at the time of its release.

If the latest figures had been included, readers would have seen that wine production and supplies were making a comeback, with forecasts that supply would be more than enough (13% more) last year to meet demand for the first time in several years.

So, hopefully, that puts that nasty little rumour to bed! (With acknowledgements to the BBC's Charlotte McDonald 25401029)

Closer to home, with this year's harvest in full swing and expected to be a good one, the SA wine industry is celebrating a record 525.7 million litres (a 26% increase over 2012) shipped all over the world.

If you're going to be in the Cape over the next few weeks and want to experience harvest-time, you can get close to the action at Delheim's grape-stomping festivities over January 25 and 26; the Robertson Hands-On Harvest Festival from February 1 to March 30; or the summer wine celebrations at Leopard's Leap in Franschhoek on February 8.