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.

Get the latest news on the South African wine industry. Subscribe to receive the Wines of South Africa newsletter now.

Newsletter sign up

From Jamie Goode

Jamie Goode

The interesting thing about wine is that you only get one chance a year to make it. So for the average winemaker, retiring at a normal age, you might get to make 40 or so vintages in your lifetime, unless of course you switch hemispheres in your winter and go to work somewhere else.   Wine is an expression of place; it's also an expression of a particular year. For the winegrower who also tends their own vines, there's a special significance to vintage time. From the time the vine buds, to the point where the flowering occurs, to the point where grapes begin developing, to the point of veraison when the skins soften and red grapes chance colour, to the point of deciding when to pick, the winegrower tracks the progress of vintage. That year is then something they try to capture in the wine, as the grapes enter the cellar. It's only after several months that they will really know the personality of the vintage they have just lived through, when the baby wines begin to show what they are about. Along the way, there are many things that can go wrong: frost, disease, pests, microbial disasters in the wine. It's a complicated business, but when it does well, it’s worth all the anxiety and toil.

Read More

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.  

Latest videos

Loading...