( about South African wine )

( about South African wine )

a brief history

“Today, praise the Lord, wine was made from Cape grapes.”

– February 2nd, 1659. Johan Anthoniszoon “Jan” van Riebeeck.1st Commander of the Cape Dutch East Company.

Johan Anthoniszoon “Jan” van Riebeeck, a 33-year-old surgeon, arrived in the Cape in 1652 on orders from his employer, The Dutch East India Company, thought to be the first multinational company in the world to establish a provisioning station for its ships after the Dutch Government of the day had provided them with the monopoly to conduct trade on “the spice route.”

In assuming his duties van Riebeeck was given the title, Commander of the Cape.

In 1655 the first grape vines were imported from France, Germany & Spain.

It was on February 2nd, 1659 Commander van Riebeeck wrote in his diary, “today, Praise the Lord, wine was made for the first time from Cape grapes”.

In 1679, Simon van der Stel became the 11th Commander of the Cape, and founded the town of Stellenbosch, the 2nd oldest European settlement in the cape after Cape Town. Often referred to as City of Oaks or Eikestad in Afrikaans and Dutch, due to the large number of oak trees planted by van der Stel

In 1685 Van Der Stel  founded the first Cape wine farm which he called Constantia.

On June 1, 1691 Commander Van Der Stel was promoted by his employer, the Dutch East India Company, to Governor of the Dutch Cape Colony, thus becoming the first Governor after his appointment as 11th Commander in 1679, in large part due to his success in growing grapes and production of Cape wine.

In 1688 the first French Huguenots arrived in the cape, bringing with them a deeper understanding of fine wine production, primarily settling in the Franschhoek Valley, or French Corner.

By the late 1700s, the sweet wines of Constantia were recognized and sought after throughout the royal courts of Europe. In fact historical records show that Napoleon ordered Constantia’s sweet wine after his exile by the British to St Helena in 1815 following his defeat at the battle of Waterloo.

In the author Jan Austen’s book, Sense and Sensibility, published in 1811, the character Mrs. Jennings recommends a little Constantia for
“its healing powers on a disappointed heart”.

In 1886 phylloxera destroyed the Cape’s vineyards.

In 1918 The Ko-operatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereeniging van Zuid-Afrika (the “KWV”) was formed in an effort to bring stability to a decimated Cape wine industry.

In 1925 Professor Perold successfully cross-pollinated the Pinot Noir grape with the Cinsaut grape, known as the Hermitage grape in South Africa in the 1920’s, in an effort to create a higher yielding grape for the Cape’s distilling industry that was better suited for the region’s higher temperature.  He named his hybrid creation Pinotage.

In 1961, the first commercially bottled Pinotage, from the 1959 vintage, was marketed by Lanzerac Wine estate in Stellenbosch.

In 1973 South Africa’s Wine of Origin (WO) program was created to legislate the wine regions of South Africa. The wine regions under the WO system fall under one of four categories. The (1st) GEOGRAPHICAL UNIT is the largest and most generic designation, followed by (2nd) REGIONS (3rd) DISTRICTS (4th) WARDS.

By 2015 South Africa was ranked the 8th largest wine producing country in the world. 

( Western Cape Wine Regions Interactive Map )

Click on a colored area on the interactive map below to learn more about the specific wine producing area.