Widespread rain in South Africa's Cape on New Year's Eve and the second weekend of January brought welcome relief to the region's dryland vineyards, the latest interim harvest report stated today.

Although warmer conditions have been experienced in the first half of this month, December was marked by cooler than normal weather with considerable wind off the surrounding oceans, the South African Wine Industry Information and Systems stated.

Estimates by the industry still indicate that total wine production for this season will be almost the same as last year, which was considered small.

Indications are that 1,111,026 tonnes of grapes will be harvested. And, at an average recovery rate of 765 litres per tonne, 850m litres can be expected. This should be 1.2% higher than the millennium harvest.

Estimates show that 550m litres of good wine should be sold, compared to 526m litres in 2000.

Total purchases of rebated and distilling wine for 2001 are currently estimated at 119,2m litres, 8.4m litres less than the previous estimate.