View the production areas with a classification of regions, districts and wards or access maps of the wine regions of South Africa.

Importance of Origin

Because the role of origin is so important, an origin control system has been in place in the traditional wine lands of Europe for many years, to protect both the producer and consumer. This approach was also adopted by the South African wine industry and enforced by law in 1973.

The two aspects which play the most important role in determining the character of a wine, are natural factors (soil, climate and topography) and human inputs (cultivar choice, viticultural practices and winemaking techniques).

Of these two, natural factors are considered to be the more important factor with a greater influence. Certain areas are more suitable for the cultivation of vineyards and within the South African wine producing areas, there are extensive variations in soil, climate and topography which cause wines to differ between regions and even vineyards.

Over the years, the production of wine grapes in South Africa has proven that each area of origin lends its own unique character to wine and that certain areas are more suitable for the production of specific wine styles.

If a wine claims origin, it is the statutory regulations that ensure that the wine is really from that origin.

When the term ‘Wine of Origin’ or the abbreviation ‘W. O.’ appears together with the name of a production area, such as Stellenbosch, Durbanville or Robertson on a label, it confirms that 100% of the grapes from which the wine is made, comes from that specific demarcated area.

Demarcation of areas of Origin

A production unit can be any demarcated area, from a single vineyard to a geographical unit. The borders of all production units, small and large, are identified and defined by experts in collaboration with affected producers and then enforced by law.

On 2 April 1993, the Wine of Origin Scheme was amended to make provision for the defining of geographical units.

Currently six geographical units have been demarcated namely: Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Limpopo and Free State. 

Cape Coastal is an example of an overarching region, which was demarcated to enable producers to blend wines from different regions with a maritime climate, but to market them under one name of origin. Cape Coastal includes the Cape South Coast and Coastal Region. 

The next demarcated production unit is a region, ie Klein Karoo and Coastal Region, which is a combination of different districts or portions of districts. 

The Coastal Region was demarcated to enable producers to blend wines from different districts with a maritime climate, but to market them under one name of origin. It includes the districts Cape Town, Darling, Franschhoek, Lutzville Valley, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Swartland, Tulbagh and Wellington. The wards Bamboes Bay and Lamberts Bay do not reside within a district but fall within the region. Another example of a region is the Breede River Valley which includes the districts Breedekloof, Robertson and Worcester with their respective wards. 

The next demarcated production unit is a district, such as Paarl, Stellenbosch and Robertson. The entity district refers to a demarcated viticultural area which is larger and less homogeneous than a ward but still have distinctive climatic conditions.

The next demarcated production unit is a combination of different farms in close proximity and an adjacent area and is known as a ward, ie Voor-Paardeberg and Constantia. 

The term ‘ward’ is used for a relatively small demarcated viticultural area with a relatively homogeneous pattern of natural factors which may include farms and is usually, but not necessarily part of a district. The Voor-Paardeberg ward is, for instance, part of the Paarl district, but the Cederberg and Bamboes Bay wards are not part of a specific district.

The next demarcated production unit is a unit for the production of estate wine, which can consist of one or more bordering farms, as long as it is farmed as a unit and has its own production cellar on the unit where the wine is produced. Where the term estate wine appears on the label, it confirms that the wine was bottled and produced on the estate and that the wine is produced only from grapes grown on that specific unit.

A unit for the production of single vineyard wine is the smallest production unit and may not exceed six hectares.

Criteria for the demarcation of areas of Origin

The smallest production unit is a single vineyard. Apart from the fact that it may not exceed 6 hectares in size, there are a number of other criteria that a Single Vineyard must adhere to. 

With a unit for the production of estate wine, which can consist of one or more farms, it has to be accepted that the natural factors can differ, but that the wine is distinctive because in most cases there is only one producer and the farms are managed as a unit.

When a ward is defined, soil, climate and geographical factors are very important as they have a clear influence on the character of wine from that ward. The proposed area name also has to be the real geographical or historical sociological place name and there should be indications that the specific area can actually produce wine with a distinctive character.

Districts have to meet the same criteria as wards, but with a broader definition of the relevant area by using macro geographical characteristics such as mountains and rivers, and should broadly reflect a distinctive climate. Naturally, a greater variety of soil types are allowed than in wards.

Regions are mainly defined according to the encompassing area name which for example in the case of a river stretches from the source to the mouth thereof.