In recent years, South African wines having been gaining popularity among wine lovers. Despite this rather recent fad, South Africa’s wine expertise is nothing new. In fact, we have to go all the way back to 1659 to discover the roots of the first South African wine production.
A long story
Some points in this 350-year history are particularly crucial for the country’s wine industry. In 1686, King Louis XIV prohibited Protestantism in France. Large numbers of Protestants, known as Huguenots at the time, were pressured into leaving the country to escape persecution. Many of them travelled to South Africa. Because most of them came from wine-producing regions of France, they were able to cultivate the country’s soil, using their knowledge and know-how. The effects of this immigration wave are still being felt in South Africa today: many of the farms still have French names.
In 1866, many vineyards were devastated by a parasite that attacked the roots of the vines. It took some twenty years of hard work to recover what was lost. Nonetheless, this disaster helped the industry develop into its current form, both in winemaking cooperatives and private producers.
The end of Apartheid in 1994 helped push the country to gradually open up to the outside world, encouraging its modernization as a result. Professionals began to support the vineyards. The quality of the final product improved significantly, and South Africa has since become a major player in the industry.
Looking to visit a vineyard? You’ll want to go to Western Cape Province. About 100,000 ha of land are dedicated to cultivating Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon grapes, as well as Pinotage, the signature grape variety of South Africa, bred from crossing Pinot and Cinsault grapes. We cannot recommend enough that you visit the cities of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, which are at the heart of wine country and where you will find many excellent restaurants.
We also recommend taking a wine tour: