The Cape winegrowing areas, situated in the narrow viticultural zone of the southern hemisphere, mainly have a Mediterranean climate and the mountain slopes and valleys form the ideal habitat for the wine grape Vitis vinifera, the products of which have given pleasure to man for many centuries. Long, sun-drenched summers and mild, wet winters contribute to the ideal conditions for viticulture at the Cape.
Liberated by the advent of democracy, the South African wine industry has gone from strength to strength, with exports growing by 196.0% between 2000 and 2012. Currently, more than 3 440 farmers cultivate some 100 093 hectares of land under vines. Some 275 600 people are employed both directly and indirectly in the wine industry. The annual harvest in 2011 amounted to 1 302 530 tons (1 012.8 million litres), of which 82% was used for wine. The annual harvest in 2012 amounted to 1 414 474 tons (1 095.1 million litres), of which 79.5% was used for wine.
The South African wine industry is backed by a state body, the Nietvoorbij Institute for Viticulture and Oenology, a leader in research with one of the most modern experimental wineries in the world and several experimental farms; the departments of viniculture and viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch; and the Elsenburg Agricultural College, which offers cellar technology.
All wines for export must be granted an export licence. Samples of each batch of wine destined for foreign countries are sent to the Wine & Spirit Board at Nietvoorbij, Stellenbosch where they undergo detailed tasting tests and chemical analysis in the laboratories before licences are granted. An official seal is given to each bottle by the Wine & Spirit Board, which verifies that the claims made on the label regarding origin, vintage and grape variety are true.
As far as international wine production is concerned, France leads with 16.4% of the total, Italy is second with 15.9%, Spain third with 12.1% and South Africa eighth with 4% (2012 figures).