South Africa

South Africa and its wine

There is so much to know about South Africa, or the Republic of South Africa, that it is difficult to know where to start. The country has a long history, going back into the prehistoric, and farmers regularly discover axe heads and other tools when they are ploughing fields. South Africa is home to some of the oldest human fossil remains, and the area has been settled since the beginning of human time. Written history begins in 1487, when Bartolomeu Dias landed in South Africa. The Portuguese King, John II, called the area the Cape of Good Hope.

Within 150 years of European discovery, the Cape was already heavily settled by the Dutch, who founded wine estates and used slaves from India, Madagascar and Indonesia as their labour force. The discovery of diamonds, and the strategic position of the Cape, lead to British invasion and the Anglo-Boer war. Cape Town was ruled by Britain from 1806, and they regularly sent Cape wines back to England, where it was drunk by everyone. They also fought with the Zulu peoples, and fought the settlers of South Africa, the Boers, again between 1899 and 1902.

The white South African settlers were offended by their oppression at the hands of the British, and eventually won freedom in 1909, with the South Africa Act. Within 5 years, Apartheid was being brought into legislation, restricting the movement of black people, and those considered to be of mixed ancestry. Apartheid caused increasing isolation for South Africa, and sanctions on everything, including wine, was the norm until 1993.

South Africa has a mostly warm climate, with the coastal regions being somewhat cooler than the interior, which is generally considered to be scrubland until it meets the Namib desert. The West and South Coast regions have a large number of mountains, cliffs and hills, all of which affect wine production in the area. South Africa is also ranked number 6 in the list of megadiverse countries, and has about 10 percent of all known plant species on earth. Due to the importance of its natural flora and fauna, South Africa has a biodiversity and ecological policy, particularly designed to protect the Fynbos plant, and known as the Cape Floral Kingdom.

South Africa is regularly depicted as a developing country, with some gaps between the very rich and the very poor, but it has started to become a tourist attraction, bringing in wine fans for its famous Wine Routes, and also being able to attract visitors to its amazing views and wildlife. It has also been suggested that South Africa make some economic changes, including allowing easy access to credit for start-up businesses, and a minimum wage.

South Africa is a big sporting nation, and is well known for its Rugby team, one of the strongest in the world. It has won the Rugby World Cup twice since returning to international sports in 1993, and it is also part of the former Tri-nations Southern Hemisphere competition. South Africa has been a host to many sporting events, including the 2010 FIFA World Cup.