The South African wine industry – did you know?

Due to its prominence among knowledgeable wine enthusiasts, South Africa is relatively well known for its wine industry. However, there are a few things most people do not know about South Africa and its wines:

South Africa’s diverse terroir and climate means that even wines grown in different parts of the same province can be vastly different

This is why there are so many diverse regions, and multiple estates (with different characteristics and grands crus) within the same area.

South Africa has a highly unique climate found nowhere else

At the tip of South Africa, the cold, rushing Atlantic Ocean collides with the balmy waves of the Indian Ocean to make a concentrated climate that is totally unique. The cool air slows the ripening process of the berries, giving them time to develop a multitude of flavours, and the fierce African sun intensifies those complexities. The wines grown in this region are known to be some of the best in the world.

Franschoek mountains and vineyards

Colombard, who?

Although Chenin Blanc is considered to be the “workhorse” of the South African wine industry, the Colombard grape is the most produced, and also the least known. This is because it rarely features as a wine in its own right, but rather is used in most white blends.

One of South Africa’s most esteemed wine regions, Franschhoek, was established by French Huguenots fleeing France due to the intolerance of Protestant beliefs

These farmers traditionally named their land after the areas in France from whence they came, such as La Motte, (Haute) Cabriere, Provence, Chamonix, Dieu Donne and La Dauphine. Most of these famed estates still retain their original French-Dutch style farmhouses as well.

Cape Dutch style farmhouse surrounded by vineyards

During colonial times, the South African wine industry fared so badly that many farmers simply dumped their leftover wine into the water sources around their land.

The KWV (Koöperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika Beperkt), now a privately-owned distillery, was put together by the government in 1918 to help regulate supply and demand of wine grapes in the country. They would buy unused grapes from farmers and convert it into other forms of alcohol.


For more interesting insights into wine and wine-related topics, feel free to read more here.

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