PRODUCERS of the locally-made Sani wine say they recorded a significant increase in their grape harvest this autumn owing to the high rainfall experienced last year.
Located in Ha-Ntsi village, on the outskirts of Maseru, Sani Wine Estate is the brainchild of the Thamae family. The company has been producing white wine since 2012 using grapes harvested from its two hectare vineyard consisting of 700 grapevines.
According to the company’s representative, Mothiba Thamae, the business evolved from a forest and fruit tree nursery to a wine producer with the technical assistance of the Groot Parys Wine Estate from Western Cape, South Africa. He said the fruit nursery was still operational.
Mr Thamae said this year’s harvest, which is currently underway, was better than the previous year. Having managed to produce 400 bottles of wine since the company’s establishment, Mr Thamae said they were expecting to produce 1000 bottles from this year’s harvest.
“Last winter, we had good rains which we believe contributed to the bountiful harvest of grapes this year,” he said in an interview this past week.
“The moisture from that rain was able to sustain our vines during the drought that we are experiencing this year.”
However, due to the current El Nino-induced drought conditions, Mr Thamae anticipates a significant decrease in next year’s harvest. He said the company faced different challenges since commencing operations, which meant that their wine production output fluctuated annually.
“For instance, last year’s harvest was ravaged by hail, which dramatically reduced our production output to just over 200 bottles of wine,” said Mr Thamae.
“This year, we are considering covering a portion of our vines with a shading net. However, we are worried that it would affect the quality of the grapes because the net may affect the way in which the grapes ripen.”
Other challenges include the lack of a reliable irrigation system for the vineyard which requires a lot of water. They also don’t have wine-pressing equipment and facilities.
“We normally hire pressing equipment from South Africa during the harvesting season since we do not have our own equipment. We use portable pressing machines,” he said.
“This pressing process is undertaken in Roma where there is electricity supply unlike in Ha-Ntsi.
“Currently, we use a simple house as a wine cellar even though it does not have temperature and humidity control mechanisms for the fermentation process.”
The estate produces year-old white wine and is in the process of introducing red wine. Mr Thamae said they had planted vines which produce red grapes, adding that they would be ready for harvesting in 2018.
“Our vision is to see Lesotho having a vibrant wine industry that can make a meaningful contribution to the country’s economic development,” he said.
“Lesotho has a comparative advantage in terms of altitude, which allows for better quality of grapes, hence the high quality of our wine.”
Mr Thamae said the estate employs five people during the harvesting season who are whittled down to five when it is completed.
He said the market response for their product was favourable, with their main clients consisting of restaurants and liquor outlets.
“The market support for our wine has been good so far in Lesotho. Most of the outlets we supply have been asking for more quantities. The demand has been boosted by a wine festival we attended in Maseru last year,” said Mr Thamae.
“Tourists also like our wine because they like to experience local products whenever they are in the country.”