OVERVIEW

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 in 1994, the South African wine industry has gone from strength to strength, with exports reaching 448.5 million litres in 2017. Currently, more than 3 029 farmers cultivate some 94 545 hectares of land under vines. Some 300 000 people are employed both directly and indirectly in the wine industry. The annual harvest in 2016 amounted to 1 405 401 tons (1 089.0 million litres), of which 82% was used for wine. The annual harvest in 2017 amounted to 1 437 259 tons (1 118.3 million litres), of which 82% was used for wine. 

The South African wine industry is backed by various organisations. The Department of Viticulture and Oenology, Stellenbosch University offers pre-graduate as well as post-graduate degrees in Viticulture, Oenology and Wine Biotechnology; Elsenburg Agricultural College offers a course in cellar technology and the ARC-Nietvoorbij is a research facility with various experimental farms. In a joint venture, the South African wine and table grape industries and Stellenbosch University established the Institute for Grape and Wine Sciences (IGWS) to enhance the international competitiveness of the wine and table grape industries. Read more here.

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. South Africa leads the world in environmental sustainability and regulated production integrity. From the 2010 vintage, a new seal for South African wines was introduced, which traces the wine from vine to bottle. The seal is a world first, and certifies a wine’s integrity as well as sustainability.  You can access the Sustainable Wine South Africa website here.

As far as international wine production is concerned, Italy leads with 19.1% of the total, France is second with 16.3%, Spain third with 14.7% and South Africa seventh with 3.9% (2016 figures).

Wine producers

  • Estate wineries, which under the original legislation could make wine only from grapes grown on their own land. In 2004, a new dispensation did away with the traditional 'estate' and focuses instead on 'estate wine' which must be produced in contiguous vineyards farmed as single units. These units must also be equipped with facilities to enable all processes up to final certification. All previously registered estates have now automatically been registered as Units for the Production of Estate Wine. For the first time, they can use their names to brand their total wine production (ie estate as well as non-estate) but only certified estate wine may be labelled and marketed as such.
  • Producer cellars (co-operatives), which on a communal basis process the grapes of their farmer member shareholders into wine - these co-operatives alone have invested vast amounts in production equipment and they press about 80% of South Africa's total wine harvest.
  • Independent cellars and a number of wholesalers who buy in both grapes and wine, and make wine for bottling under their brand names, as well as making wine from grapes grown on their own wine farms.

South African Wine Industry Directory

Background information on the South African Wine Industry
Wines of South Africa is an industry owned, not-for-profit organisation. Its mission is to contribute to the global success of the South African wine industry by building Brand South Africa.