Facts and figures about the South African wine industry

South Africa is considered a new world wine country, but the winemaking tradition dates back over 350 years to 2nd February 1659, when the first grapes were pressed and South Africa's wine story began.

Facts about the South African wine industry

  • Today South Africa exports around 450 million litres of wine
  • There are over 100,000 hectares of vineyard in South Africa
  • South Africa is committed to sustainable wine farming
  • South Africa is the 9th largest producer of wine in the world
  • Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted variety in South Africa

Find more facts, figures and statistics on South African wine.

The climate for wine in South Africa

Despite its African geography, the Cape winelands, situated at the Southernmost tip of Africa, enjoy a Mediterranean climate with cool, wet winters and warm dry summers.

The mountain slopes and valleys form the ideal habitat for the wine grape, Vitis Vinifera, and the sea breezes from the Atlantic and Indian oceans cool the vineyards during the warm summer afternoons, slowing the ripening process and creating the intense fruit flavours that are so popular with lovers of South African wines.

Wine growing areas in South Africa

In 1972 the Wine of Origin Scheme was introduced in South Africa to recognise and protect the distinct qualities of wine from certain areas, grape varieties and vintages.

In this, the regions, districts and wards of the South African wine industry were defined.

Find out more about the winegrowing areas in South Africa.

Wine grape varieties in South Africa

Chenin is still king in South Africa, although around 40% of vineyards were replanted in recent years and there is a notable shift from 80 percent white grapes to a split that is nearly 50/50 red and white.

The top five grape varieties in South Africa are Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Colombard, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc.

Learn more about South Africa's grape varieties.

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From Jamie Goode

Jamie Goode

As I write, I’m about to embark on another South African venture. I’m catching a plane today to Cape Town, to judge the Standard Bank Top 10 Chenin Blanc competition. While I’m there, I’ll also have a chance to nip down to the beautiful Franschhoek region, to focus on MCC (Methode Cap Classique, South Africa’s traditional method sparkling wine category). I’m looking forward to both immensely, and although it’s winter in the Cape, you never know – if you are lucky with the weather, you can get some pleasant winter sunshine. But you have to be prepared to be rained on. Mind you, I don’t begrudge the rain. Winegrowers here rely on decent rainfall in the winter to replenish ground reserves and fill up dams. If you want decent wine in reasonable quantities, then don’t complain about getting rained on in winter.

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In Jo's glass

I was recently in South Africa for Cape Wine and managed to taste several vintages of the delicious Vin de Constance from Klein Constantia. I usually opt for a sweet wine at the end of a meal instead of a pudding and The Vin de Constance is a perfect way to end a meal. It's rich and opulent with stone fruits, vanilla and a hint of spice yet it is also fresh, balanced and has a long, moreish finish. Master of Wine, Tim Atkin, highly rated both the 2011 and 2012 in his most recent report on South Africa which is available to download for £15 on timatkin.com.  

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