Wine making in South Africa dates back to the mid 1600s. Merchant vessels enroute to the Far East brought vines for trade, while Huguenots emigrating from France brought most of the grape varietals that dominate today’s vineyard landscape on the Western Cape.
The end of the 1800s saw the industry crippled by shifting colonial powers and several serious vine diseases. Many farmers turned away from grape growing in favour of more profitable crops, while the remaining growers opted for producing quantity over quality. With the advent of the first World War and the glut of wine, depressed prices soon threatened the industry.
In 1918 KWV, a government influenced winemaking co-operative, was formed; within five years over 90% of growers had joined the co-op. While KWV succeeded in stabilizing the industry, it exerted great power by setting quotas and fixing prices, which in turn limited innovation and brought little technological advancement to the industry.
It was not until the end of Apartheid in 1994 and the privatization of KWV that South Africa became a major player in the wine world. A renaissance in the South African industry saw international winemakers inspiring a new generation to seek education abroad and bring their knowledge home. Today, although a large volume of simple bulk wine is produced, South African wines offer tremendous value. Expect to see an increase in quality wine offerings hit our market in the near future.
Ayja Golder, Manager
South Africa is the 8th largest producer of wine in the world and the 6th largest exporter.
Cinsault was known as ‘Hermitage’ in South Africa. The name ‘Pinotage’, is a crossing of Cinsault (Hermitage) and Pinot Noir.
Much of the South African wine produced is turned into inexpensive fortified wines and brandy.
Plantings of Chenin Blanc in South Africa are far greater than the varietal’s ancestral home of the Loire Valley, making SA the biggest producer in the world