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.
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.
A New Town
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
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
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.
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