South African wines have become a common sight in shops recently and are rising in popularity even among wine experts. However, the history of South African wines dates back to the 17th century when the very first bottle was produced by Jan van Riebeeck in Cape Town. Gaining access to an international market brought fresh investment to South Africa’s wine industry and today, production remains concentrated in the Cape Town area, with major production centres and vineyards in Paarl, Constantia, Worcester and Stellenbosch.
South Africa owns only 1.5% of grape vineyards in the world and has around 270,000 acres dedicated to grape cultivation for wine producing. As such it ranks 17th in the world in terms of vineyards. The country produces around 10 million hl every year which ranks it in the top ten of all the world’s wine producing nations.
Although the south western corner of South Africa is traditionally the strong hold of the nation’s wine industry, today, wine is also made in the Western cape and Northern Cape regions as well as the Eastern Cape and KawZulu-Natal regions. The areas along the Orange, Olifants and Breede Valley Rivers are some of the country’s warmest regions and therefore are a key spot for wine distillation and production. Cooler areas to the east of Cape Town and along the coast of the Indian Ocean like Elgin and Walker Bay have also begun to see expansion and further development over the last few years with producers experimenting with the cooler climate and different styles of wines.
Most South African wines are popular because of their excellent value for money, thanks to their distinctive tastes and styles that are powerful, elegant and go perfectly with food.