South Africa today is well known for producing some of the finest wine selections in the world. Theirs was not an easy road achieving this status but it was done methodically from the time of the Constantia wine farm in 1685.
In 1659 Jan Van Riebeeck was able to produce the very first wine on record from South Africa. Van Riebeeck was the first Dutch Governor of Cape Town. Cape Town remains the hub of wine production in South Africa even up to today although there are many other areas that are producing excellent wine. The property of Constantia farm began operations in 1685 by the then-Governor Simon Van Der Stel. He had a good wine label known as Vin de Constance but eventually sold his wine farm to Hendrik Cloete in 1778 and this was the man who built the name Constantia and made it world class, gaining international fame.
The growth of the wine industry continued with a new group of growers forming the Koöperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika Bpkt or KWV. They were based in the Western Cape and dominated the industry up to the time of the Apartheid. They are also responsible for organizing the South African Wine Farmers Association or SAWFA.
After Apartheid, wine bans were lifted, quotas were removed and KWV ceded authority to regulate the industry to the South African Wine Industry Trust (SAWIT). This was only time South African wines began their entry into the world market on a more massive scale.
All wines under South African labels follow the Wine of Origin system (WO) if they want to be recognized. The WO began in 1973 and basically states that 100% of the grapes used should come from the area where the wine is being produced; additionally, wines need to be categorized either as a single vineyard or an Estate vineyard. The difference between the two vineyards would be the size of the vineyard.
Types of South African Wine
South Africa takes great pride in its wine. They have several wine organizations from the private and public sectors like the privately-owned KWV, the government-run Wine & Spirit Board, and SAWIT (the South African Wine Industry Trust) which is under the control of the Wine & Spirit Board.
There is a labelling system in place but it is voluntary. Those in the program have their wines tested and analysed for grading. Vineyards also under this system have to follow the strict hygiene and production standards of the Board. For those who prefer not to be included in the system, they are obligated to undergo random health and hygiene testing.
Cape Port Wine
There are different kinds of Cape Port wines such as the Cape White Port, Cape Ruby Port, Cape Tawny Port, Cape Late Bottles Vintage and Cape Vintage Port. They are aged for a minimum of 6 months and come from a variety of grapes but the standard alcohol level for Cape Port wine is set at between 16.5% and 22%.
The new term used for South African champagne is Cap Classique. It was changed from “Champagne” because of certain European Union regulations which patent the word “Champagne” to refer to EU products.
These are sherry-type wines made from Jerepigo. They are sweet with an average of 50 grams residual sugar for every litre. The alcohol content’s minimum is 10%.
Today, you are likely to find South African wines in any wine or liquor store across the globe. They have the elegant grace of old, and are without the arrogance of European wines. Additionally, if you compare prices, South African wines are almost always the more affordable option. Putting together all factors, the wine industry has a successful working formula for South Africa which has put the country visibly on the international wine market.
If you’re interested in the history of wine in South Africa, or in the history of early European life on the tip of the continent, there are many resources available: whether you prefer English or Afrikaans books, an online store like Takealot.com is bound to have something that’ll catch your eye.