South Africa's winelands
Did you know?
While most of our wines are familiar, we have our very own viticultural cross - pinotage.
In 1652 the Dutch East India Company dispatched Jan van Riebeeck to erect a fort and lay out a garden in Table Bay. Five years later the first farmers started to work their own land and in 1659 van Riebeeck recorded the making of the first wine in the Cape.
The South African wine industry is still heavily focused in the Western Cape region. With its Mediterranean climate, soils, and the influence of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans' air, it is ideal for grape growing. The first wines from the South Africa winelands were made from indigenous wild grapes, but later French vines were planted - including chenin blanc and muscat.
The industry received a huge boost in 1686 when a large number of Huguenot religious refugees arrived from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Most of them came from wine growing regions, bringing with them their knowledge and skills. Many chose to live in what is now Franschhoek near Stellenbosch, their farms still linked to France through names such as La Motte, Cabriere, Provence and Dieu Donne.
In 1866 the winelands were devastated by phylloxera, the vine root-killing bug. This led to a massive replanting of South African winelands, which laid the foundation for the current industry structure of cooperatives and private producers. These cater for the entire spectrum from everyday consumption to high-end quality wines, many of which have won international acclaim.
While most of the grapes from the winelands of South Africa will be familiar to visitors, there is one uniquely South African viticultural cross - pinotage. Bred by Professor Abraham Perold at Stellenbosch University in 1925 from pinot noir and cinsaut, it produces a deep red wine with smoky, earthy flavours. It is also often blended or made into fortified and sparkling wines.