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

Recently I took part as one of the three judges in a tasting of Chenin Blanc wines from around the world for The World of Fine Wine. This is a high-end wine magazine that's aiming to cover the world's best wines, and in each issue they have reports on a number of focused tastings, and this was one of them.   The good thing about these tastings is that rather than simply produce a group average score (they do this too), they give the scores of each of the three judges. This is interesting because it lets you see where the experienced judges disagree. For me, one of the most interesting things about fine wine is that even experts come to different conclusions, sometimes. In some cases this could be because even the best tasters have off-moments. Tasting blind is tricky and sometimes you just get a wine wrong. But in other cases, experts genuinely disagree. Wine is complex, and even if we try hard, our personal tastes can get in the way when we try to reach a consensus.

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In Susan's glass

I fell in love with South Africa and the wines a few years ago. The recent MasterChef UK final took me right back to a holiday I had there. They went to the same Game Reserve that we stayed at and we also went to Reuben Riffel's restaurant in Franschhoek the night before my friends wedding - it was great to see Reuben as a guest judge too! Watching that episode seemed like the perfect excuse to open this beautiful bottle of Semillon from Boekenhoutskloof. What a delicious wine! 

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