|CAPE WINES BEFORE THE 20TH CENTURY
The 18th century was a difficult phase for the wine industry. There was resistance to Cape wines from the European and Far East export markets and the quality of some Cape wines left much to be desired. A critical shortage of oak vats made it difficult to age wine properly. Some of the vats used for exporting wine had previously even been used to brine meat. Meanwhile, the industry struggled to identify the best varieties for each district and to adapt winemaking techniques to local conditions.
The first half of the 19th century brought prosperity to the industry. The British occupation of the Cape, in addition to Britain's war with France, created a large new market for Cape wines. The vines at the Cape increased within 45 years from 13 to 55 million and wine production from 0,5 million to 4,5 million litres.
However, 1861 brought disaster. Britain finally resolved her differences with France, and South Africa's wine exports collapsed. In 1886, the disease phylloxera was discovered at the Cape and decimation of the vineyards followed.
The year 1899 saw the beginning of the Anglo-Boer War. The wine industry was in chaos. A proliferation of new plantings caused overproduction and 25 years of hardship followed.
It was Charles Kohler who set out to alleviate the situation. His efforts led to the creation in 1918 of the Ko-operatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika Beperkt (KWV). An umbrella for its farmer members, the KWV brought stability to the industry, placing it on the road to growth and prosperity. The foundation was laid for today's thriving wine industry.
The TIMELINE chronicles some of the important milestones in the South African wine industry.