Understanding the South African wine industry

The South African Winelands are one of the great wine capitals of the world.  The area is mainly set in valleys nestled between rugged mountains. The Mediterranean climate offers warm, dry summers with rain falling in the mild winter months. This climate and the enormous diversity of soils in the area combine to create the opportunity for the variety of wine styles, from classic Old World to contemporary fruit-driven styles of the New World. This rare combination results in wines that are elegant yet powerful, complex yet accessible, but all eloquently express the unique terroir and people of the Cape.

The following industry statistics available (2013) were supplied by SA Wine Industry Information & Systems (SAWIS). For further information visit www.sawis.co.za

 - 3 323 primary grape producers
 - 564 number of wine cellars which crush grapes
 - 493 private wine cellars
 - 50 producer cellars
 - 21 producing wholesalers
 - 99 680,41 hectares under vine
 - 915,5 million litres of wine produced
 - 568,5 million litres white wine
 - 347 million litres red wine

South Africa’s Wine of Origin (WO) scheme came about in the early 1970s and was based on the classification systems of Europe. The WO classification recognises “geographic units”, “regions”, “districts” and “wards”, in order of size from biggest to smallest, as defined by the Wine and Spirit Board. When “Wine of Origin” or “WO” appears together with the name of an area on the label of a South African wine, it confirms that the wine was in fact made 100% from grapes grown in that area. 

Starting with the 2010 vintage, an additional seal certifying integrity and sustainability, have been introduced – a world first. A producer can voluntarily choose to display the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) seal, or the WO seal, with the new seal assuring consumers of sustainable production as well.

A region is usually a combination of districts, with all of the wards, districts and regions located within the boundaries of the geographical units (provinces).

There are four geographical units recognised by the Board as areas where grapes are grown for the purpose of winemaking: KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape.

Now that you have a broad perspective of the industry, in the coming weeks we will take a closer look at many of these demarcated areas!