The Dutch doctor and merchant Jan van Riebeeck (1619-1677) founded Cape Town in 1652 and planted the first vines brought from Europe at the foot of Table Mountain near the present legislative capital in 1655. The first documented vintage was a 1659 with 15 litres of Muscat wine. From the end of the 17th century onwards, it was 200 Huguenots - the name of today's Franschhoek (French corner) reminds us of them - as well as German and Dutch winegrowers who drove the South African viticulture forward. Their descendants still play an important role today. The Dutch governor Simon van der Stel (1639-1712), who was appointed in 1679, founded the town of Stellenbosch and in 1685 laid out the famous Constantia vineyard, from which one of the world's legendary sweet wines called "Vin de Constance" was produced for the European royal courts. In the 17th century, large quantities of port and sherry style wines and brandy were exported to England. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Dutch governors successfully promoted viticulture. In 1885 the phylloxera also reached South Africa and caused devastating damage.
Racial segregation was introduced after the foundation of the South African Union in 1910 (the black population was excluded from voting) and intensified after the Second World War (the term apartheid from afrikaans "apart" = individual, special). The resulting boycott of many countries increasingly cut off South Africa from exports. In 1918, due to a wine crisis (overproduction, poor quality, bankruptcy of many companies) the KWV (Kooperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid Afrika) was founded. This governmental controlling body then completely dominated the entire South African winegrowing until the early 1990s. The apartheid policy was abandoned in 1991 and the right to land ownership was opened to all races. As a result, demand from abroad rose sharply and wine became one of the most important export goods. In 2002, the non-profit organisation WIETA was founded, which among other things is concerned with improved working conditions in the wine industry.
The climate is ideal for wine growing. The proximity to the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Indian Ocean in the east characterizes the "wine between two oceans". There is a long, mostly sunny summer and (from May to September) a mild but humid winter. The cold and gusty wind from the southeast is called "Cape Doctor" because it cleans the air - but the winegrowers fear it because it can damage the vines. The climate, soil type and wine type are divided into two main regions: the Coastal Region, which is more moderate under the influence of the Artlantic and has more rainfall, with mostly dry white and red wines, and the Klein Karoo, Olifants River, Robertson and Worcester, which is less rainy and hotter and separated by mountain ranges, with dessert wines rich in alcohol. Especially the coastal areas like Constantia, Durbanville, Overberg, Philadelphia, Stellenbosch are influenced by the nearby sea. Cooling breezes and nightly cooling down provide for long maturing periods and are conducive to quality wines. In the warmer areas, irrigation must be largely artificial, mostly by rivers.
There are almost 4,000 grape producers, about 60 cooperatives, about 500 private wineries & cellars and over 20 wholesalers. The largest winery is Nederburg (Paarl) with 700 hectares of vineyards, where the first South African Botrytis wine called Edelkeur was produced by Günter Brözel (one of the South African wine growing pioneers besides Graue and Tim Hamilton Russel). An important annual auction takes place here. KWV International plays (even after privatisation) a very important role as a producer and trading house. Another large company is the Stellenbosch Farmer's Winery (SFW). A traditional speciality is still, as in the past, the sweet dessert wines made in the style of sherry and port. Chenin Blanc and the Muscat varieties are used to produce large quantities of simple, carbonated bubblies (sparkling wines), but also sparkling wines according to the Méthode cap classique. The variety Pinotage, created by the already legendary viticulture pioneer Professor Abraham Isak Perold (1880-1941), delivers Cape specialities with deep, full-bodied red wines. From the 1950s onwards, temperature-controlled fermentation became common practice through the use of stainless steel tanks. Today, practically all white wines are fermented cool to cold (12 to 15 °C).
80% of the vineyards are located in the Western Cape province within a 200 kilometre radius of Cape Town, at...