SA Wine industry overview – Part 1
South Africa has been a wine-maker for more than 300 years, and although it is classed as a ‘New World’ wine producer, it uses these long traditions to create some of the best quality wines in the world. The South African wine industry is one of the largest across the globe, and its exports and internal sales drive its national income. The location of wine-production in South Africa, as well as the different types of wine production there, are both important factors which influence how the South African wine industry will grow in the future.
The most important influence upon the South African Wine industry is the location. Although South Africa is a large country, wine growing is limited to the southern-most tip, known as the ‘Cape’. The land here is particularly suitable for vineyards, and also close to the capital, Cape Town, which allows for easy access to international markets and trades. Wine has been grown on the Cape since the 17th century, and wine experts are familiar with the exquisite wines produced during this period, and eventually shipped back to Europe and its diverse colonies. Known as the Cape Winelands, these vineyards have a warm, balmy climate described as ‘Mediterranean’, which includes hot, dry summers and cold, rainy winters. This is the ideal climate for French vines. The many mountains of the Cape, with fertile slopes and lush valleys also help to produce large, flavoursome grapes that can then be used to make deep and intense wines.
The areas where wine is grown were divided during the ’70s into particular sections, known as regions. Each region has a number of districts, which in turn have a number of wards, within their borders. This division allows wine producers to clearly label where their grapes have been grown, and where the wine is produced, which helps purchasers to understand more about their wine. There are 10 regions in South Africa: the Western Cape, which includes Breede River Valley, Coastal, Cape South, Klein Karoo, Boberg and the Olifant’s River regions; Northern Cape, Limpopo and Eastern Cape.
The Cape Winelands have proved so popular amongst wine growers that vineyards and estates now occupy between 100,000 and 115,000 hectares of land, and there are nearly 5,000 wine growers working on that, producing over 834, 000,000 litres of wine each year, with 2010 producing around one million tons. In comparison with the big European wine producers, in 2003 France made 17.5 percent of all wine, with Italy and Spain just behind on 16.5 and 16 percent respectively, while South Africa made just 3.3%. Although this figure looks small, it makes the South African wine industry the 9th largest in the world, and production is growing there (recent estimates put South Africa as the 7th largest wine producer in the world), while Europe’s production has been dwindling over the last decade or two. It is estimated that around 400 million litres of South African wine are exported annually, amounting to about half of the total production.
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