In South Africa, the first vineyards date back to the 17th century…
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“In South Africa, discover vineyards that are amongst the oldest of the new world”
South African vines, an ancestral tradition...
The first vines were planted in the Cape Region in the 17th Century. At the time, the wine of Constantia was regarded as one of the finest wines in the world and was served at the tables of European monarchs. Several years later, the French Huguenots expanded wine cultivation in the country, importing their knowledge acquired in the renowned vineyards of France. It was at this time that South African wine was born.
However, in 1886, phylloxera destroyed the entirety of the South African vineyards. The vines planted afterwards are unfortunately bad quality and it was not until 1925, with the return of quality vines, that Professor Perold would invent the Pinotage variety, today emblematic of the country, from a cross of Cinsaut and Pinot Noir. From this point forward, South African viticulture embarked upon a qualitative strategy, with the creation of a viticulture research centre, local cooperatives based on different soils, and ‘Wine Trails’ to encourage oenological tourism.
Since the end of the 1990s, there’s been a buzz around the Stellenbosch wine region. Winemakers have experimented, producing white wines similar to those from Languedoc, using grape varieties based on Sauvignon, Semillon, Chenin and Chardonnay. In terms of red wines, even though Pinot is making inroads, it is not adapted to the warm climate of the country.
Today, the region’s vineyards are planted with 56% of white grape varieties and 44% of red grape varieties over around 100 000 hectares (almost equivalent in size to the Bordeaux wine-growing region), compared to 84% planted with white grape varieties in 1990. Chenin Blanc remains the dominant variety, with 18% of vineyards, ahead of Cabernet Sauvignon, which accounts for 12% of the acreage. Pinotage with 6 500 hectares, is more and more prevalent, and the Bellevue Morkel estate owns the oldest Pinotage vines in South Africa today. The region numbers over 4 000 producers and almost 50% of their production is exported.