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South Africa Wine - History

South Africa Wine : In the Beginning

The South African wine industry has come a long way since the first unsuccessful attempt to grow grapes in 1652 in the area known today as the Cape Winelands.

Cape Winelands - Sketch of an estate

Jan van Riebeeck was lavish in his praise of the first wine produced in 1659.

Others were less enthusiastic, and it took many years before Cape wines earned the respect of Europe.

Holland had never been a wine producing country and so the Dutch did not initially succeed in producing drinkable wine. However, Dutch merchant traders noticed that crews on ships from the wine producing Mediterranean countries suffered less from the dreaded disease scurvy, and this was put down to their wine consumption.

For this reason, Van Riebeeck decided to supplement his supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables from the Company Gardens with barrels of this noble liquid.

Old Wine Bottle

A New Town

Beautiful Gabled Houses

Just two decades after wine was first produced in the Cape, a new governor arrived on the scene - Simon van der Stel.

He continued to develop areas even further from Cape Town with much greater enthusiasm than his predecessors. In 1679 he established the foundations of what was to become the charming town of Stellenbosch - now one of the centres of the South Africa wine industry.

His own estate of Constantia was granted to him not long afterwards, and although greatly reduced in size, it is still today one of the most beautiful wine estates in the Cape and historically one of the most interesting.

Constantia became famous. Kings and princes of Europe clamoured for the sublime "Vin de Constance" - and the wine was even praised in the novels of Austen and Dickens. The South Africa wine industry that originated from the Cape Winelands has not looked back.

The Huguenot Settlers

Towards the end of the 17th century, freedom of religion was abolished in France and the Protestant Huguenots were persecuted and many were killed for their beliefs. Thousands fled to Holland where some found their way aboard ships bound for the little Cape settlement.

They brought with them a sound knowledge of viniculture and were allocated land in the Cape Winelands - areas now known as Franschhoek, Paarl and Drakenstein, where they contributed to the improvement of the South African wine industry.

The drink has long since passed the stage of being merely a remedy for scurvy, and today the South Africa wine industry and Cape wines are once again in demand around the world.

La Motte Wine Label

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