In South Africa, wine was already produced for over 350 years. The Netherlands-born doctor, Jan van Riebeeck planted the first vines in the Cape, because a supply station for the Dutch East India Company had a base there. Since the wine is more durable than fresh water on the long sea voyages and it also had a positive impact on the scurvy disease, he planted the first vines in 1655, and three years later the first wine in South Africa was made. The South African farmers also tried cultivating vines but failed due to their inexperience. It’s only some 20 years later when Frenchman Huguenots came to the country that viticulture was revived. In 1679 van Riebeeck was replaced by the Dutchman Simon van der Stel, a wine lover and at the same time he had good knowledge of viticulture and founded a 750-hectare vineyard. The development in viticulture progressed quickly, but there were setbacks in the mid-19th century during the British colonial period. It was only after the end of apartheid in the years 1993/94 and with the opening of world markets that wine cultivation rebooted.
Actually, the climate for viticulture is too hot, but due to its position between the two oceans and the Benguela current, the climate is ideal and the vines can thrive well. In the coastal areas, where most of the wine-growing areas are located, a temperate climate with much rainfall and low night temperatures is due to the cool sea currents. In the Interior of the country, the climate is hot and dry and the wine is not possible without artificial irrigation. The land is partly mountainous and the soil condition varies, everything is available from granite and schist soils, sandy and clay soils, fertile alluvial soil, sandstone weathering, grass flooring and stone flooring in the mountainous areas.
Currently, the grapes are cultivated at a vineyard area of over 100,000 hectares. Everything exists, from strong red wines to fresh and fruity white wines. The Sauvignon Blanc is often grown in the cooler zones and the white varieties Chenin Blanc is the most used grape variety. The South African Chardonnays are a true specialty. The varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Colombard, Merlot, Pinotage, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc are the most popular white varieties.
The most important red grape varieties are Pinotage, a cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir and the vines of Sultana (Thompson Seedless), a seedless table grape that is also used for the production of wine. There are cultivated in the red variety but also Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Pinot Noir and many indigenous grape varieties like the Pinotage.
The South African quality wine system was introduced in 1973, the so-called wine of origin system (WO-system). The quality of wine is determined by the location of the vineyard and the winemaker. The seal on the bottle certifies the information concerning the origin, the vine variety and the vintage. The Wine and spirit Board is responsible for the supervision and certification of the wines. The term “Estate Wine” guarantees that the wine was grown and produced on a registered estate. The year must be a percentage of 85 percent of the wine in the bottle.
In South Africa, there are five large wine-growing areas, which are in turn divided into smaller districts.
-Cape South Coast
-Breede River Valley