The crippling drought in the Western Cape did not hamper annual grape harvest festivities in Stellenbosch in the Boland. A parade and blessing ceremony marked the start of the season on Saturday. The harvest is expected to be smaller but still of good quality.

The annual parade is meant to celebrate thousands of men and women responsible for sustaining the wine industry. Cape minstrels, drum majorettes and marching brass bands gathered to celebrate. It has been a tough season for farmers. But wine makers and workers are optimistic about the next 12 weeks.

The harvest has started in earnest and God’s blessings are asked in this difficult time. At this year’s parade, the great role farm workers play was highlighted.

“Farm workers are the partners in the vinyard and the wines from Stellenbosch serve as an ambassador to South Africa so it’s very important to recognise the work they do,” said chairperson of the Stellnbosch wine route Kobus Basson.

Basson says unexpected rain fell in the Stellenbosch area in November which brought hope. While the grape berries are smaller and the volumes less, it could be of exceptional quality. The harvesting of method cup classique, or sparkling wine grapes, are underway.

” Its a great challenge this year with the changing of nature and there’s little water but we are going into the harvest with a lot of hope,” said Basson.

The lower volumes could have an impact on the number of seasonal workers that are employed. But for now spirits are high and hope alive that the hard work will pay off.