One of the New World's oldest wine producers dating back to the 17th
century & the Dutch East India Company plantings near Table Moutain,
South Africa now produces wine from approx. 100,000ha; 40% less
than Bordeaux's total vineyard
Since being freed from the shackles of apartheid in 1994, the South
African wine industry has blossomed into a nation of 4,000 vineyard
smallholders averaging 3ha or less. While this has provided the perfect
canvas for a burgeoning wine tourism industry, it has been less
helpful when it comes to competing on the world stage where appropriately large
wine brands in the mould of Penfolds are required - but in
South Africa wine landscape they remain conspicuously absent.
Regrettably, years of underinvestment during the KWV cooperative era has
resulted in vineyards ravaged by (leafroll) viruses, perpetuated by a
system of grape-growers continuing to supply a number of wine
estates; contributing perhaps to the infamous Cape fruit character found in far
too many red wines...
60% of South Africa’s wine producers have signed up to the
Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI) which advocates sustainable
wine production. Nature is certainly on South African wine producers' side
with plenty of sun in this warm Mediterranean climate, tempered by Oceanic
onshore breezes. Climate plays a greater role in determining the style and
quality of the Cape's wine, while the predominantly granitic (low
pH) soils contributes to a generally fuller, rounder, low acid mouthfeel.
17,500 ha is the most important fine wine producing district, followed
with 15,000 ha and then Paarl at 18,000 ha. Worcester (20,500 ha), Robertson (13,500
ha), Olifants River (10,000 ha) and Orange River (5,000 ha) make
up the difference (and ballast).
Newly created wine regions include the coastal Elim (near Cape Agulhas,
Africa's southern-most tip), West Coast, Langloof, and Prince
Albert (near the majestic Swartberg - Black Mountain).
The split of white to red wine production was 55/45 in 2005.
The white wine grapes are dominated by Chenin Blanc (Steen) with
20% share, with Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier the great
white hopes. The red wine grapes are led by Cabernet Sauvignon with
13%, with Merlot and Shiraz close
Pinotage, South Africa's
indigenous grape varietal (a cross between Pinot Noir &
Cinsaut -spelt “Cinsault” in the Southern Rhône) is at 6%