Orange River Floods Don’t Stop Good Wine

Orange River in flood.
The last time I visited the Orange River wine region I had to hot-foot it out of Kakamas to avoid being swept away by the torrent that was South Africa’s biggest river being in flood. I had just made it across the bridge before the river broke its banks, causing about R4bn worth of damage to vineyards and other farmland, bridges, roads, buildings and general infrastructure.
With countless job opportunities lost due to farmers and businesses having to cut-back due to the devastation in January and February, it was surprising the area was not declared a disaster are, opening the door for a possible gesture of flood relief from national and Northern Cape government. No such gestures have been made, but the local agricultural community is still trying to mobilise some sort of assistance.
In the meantime, farmers are replanting orchards and vineyards, fixing road and trying their utmost to create a semblance of relief for the local workforce.
Although the grape harvest was understandably down as the floods hit during the picking season, the Orange River show seemed to have gone on. Wine was made. And tasting the clean, pure fruit in the 2011 Chenin Blanc and Colombar I asked Rianco van Rooyen, winemaker at Keimoes, how they managed to produce such results under trying conditions.
“Logistics and planning,” says Rianco. “Your farmers have to find alternative routes to get to the farm as their farmroads are flooded. Some of the grapes were exposed to muddy water and had to be cleaned. But out here, in this region, we’ve learnt to expect the unexpected. And the fact that everyone remains positive helps ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ we will always find a way, no matter what nature throws at us.”
And with 80% of wines selling at under R35, it is the place to be. Not even a flood, tsunami or hurricane is going to change this reality.

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