The wine industry in South Africa first started around 1659 just after the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in Cape Town. The Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek and Constantia areas are still the first names that come to mind when the wine industry is discussed. Now-a-days wines are produced also in the BreedeRiverValley, Klein Karoo, Swartland, Durbanville, and Overberg and further a field. South African wines are well known in the rest of the world and although competition is fierce, the country has made its mark and its wines are still in demand.
The South African bottled wine industry produces a large number of wines, both cultivar and blended wines. The grape varieties (also called cultivars) mostly farmed are Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage and Chardonnay with the Chenin Blanc at the top of the list with 18% planted. White grapes such as CapeRiesling, Hanepoot, Sémillon and Riesling are also on the increase. Wine has traditionally been made in a certain style but the style had been changed to a more international one due to the demand from that market.
The red grape Pinotage has come into being by crossing the Cinsaut and Pinot Noir grapes and has been a favourite of South African wine drinkers over the years. Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz has been favoured for wines that are produced for the international market but since the late 1990’s it rose again in popularity – it is seen as a typically South African wine. At the moment is placed second of red wines planted around the country.
South Africa also produces fortified wines such as ports, namely CapePort. It is made in line with the Portuguese fortified wines with a 16.5-22% minimum alcohol level. Sherries are also produced here. Furthermore, sparkling wines are produced from Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc grapes and when the European Champagne method is used, the bottles are labelled MCC or Method Cap Classique. Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes are now also used in the production of sparkling wines and when the Pinotage grape is used, a red sparkling wine is the result.
KWV (Koöperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika Bpkt) is one of the major co-operatives or organizations in the wine industry and The Wine & Spirit Board is responsible for the fact that wines are “certified.” As with any other commodity, supply and demand go hand in hand and local vineyards always keep their major markets in mind when they create their wines. This means that if the market changes its mind with regards to what it prefers then the wine industry will have to follow suit. Over time the wine industry in South Africa has been up and down but is still favoured in many overseas countries, not to mention the fact that many South Africans are currently living abroad and enjoy drinking their home brew. Wine is traditionally bottled but is also available in other formats such as boxes and lately in plastic bottles.