The South African wine industry is doing well. It follows an interesting path of development and positively changes its image. The number of wines from South Africa is still growing on the European market and they have a good reputation all over the world. New and interesting producers emerge, new, open-minded generation of enologists is taking the floor.
Grapevine was brought to this part of the Black Land in 1655 by the Dutch settlers.
Jan Van Riebeeck, member of the Dutch East India Company, who was in command of the initial Dutch settlement and governed the colony (today’s Cape Town), also brought grapevine. Two decades later, in the area of today’s Stellenbosch, the first regular vineyards were set up by Simon van der Stel. This is how winemaking began in South Africa. Shortly, it gained support when the French Huguenots landed in South Africa in the end of the 17th century, many of whom were experienced in the field of wine. However, the beginnings were difficult. Non-vintage wines were produced, the focus was rather on dessert, fortified wines. However, with time the favourable climate conditions allowed for the improvement of winemaking techniques and production focused on more sophisticated wines.
The Western Cape turned out to be an especially favourable area for wine production, where the dry and hot tropical climate makes a perfect blend with the cooler and more humid oceanic climate. Additionally, appropriate landform features and soil type made favourable conditions for viticulture. There are well-known wine regions such as Constantia, Stellenbosch or Paarl.
The most “South African” grapevine variety is surely pinotage. This is the graft created in 1925 by professor Abraham Perold. The scientist managed to gain interesting effect by creating a hybrid of pinot noir and cinsault. Pinotage gives powerful fruit, dense and intense wines. They are appreciated by many consumers all over the world. They are so much appreciated that pinotage vineyards appeared in Brazil, Canada, California and New Zealand, and the winemakers from South Africa consider it their flagship. Apart from pinotage, other red varieties are also grown in South Africa: cinsault, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, tinta barocca, tinta roriz and pinot noir which is earning more and more respect and all hopes are pinned on it. As for the white wines, for a long time chanin blanc (called steen) has been very popular, sauvignon blanc, riesling, chardonnay, semillon, gewurztraminer. Altogether, the vineyards in South Africa take around 115 thousand hectares. In recent years there has been a clear increase in the production of red wines.
Still, there are co-operatives and large-scale wholesalers but the grass-roots movement of small enterprises and more cosy wineries is really strong. The oldest winery in South Africa is Groot Constantia. It was founded in 1685 by the above-mentioned Simon van der Stel. Even now, its original Dutch colonial architecture as well as famous sweet wines produced in here make you feel overwhelmed with delight.
The first wine route in South Africa was opened in 1971. Until now, it has been one of the most popular tourist attractions of this country – the route includes many excellent and renowned wineries. One may visit them, have a delicious local meal and, obviously, taste wines. Frequently, enotourists choose Cape Town as their starting point and from the city they make trips to the charming vineyards of the Cape Province.