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South African Wines


On 2nd February 1659 the founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riebeeck, produced the first wine recorded in South Africa. In 1685, the Constantia estate was established in a valley facing False Bay by the Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel. His 'Vin de Constance' soon acquired a good reputation. But it was Hendrik Cloete, who bought the homestead in 1778, who really made the name of Constantia famous, with an unfortified wine made from a blend of mostly Muscat de Frontignan (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains), Pontac, red and white Muscadel (probably clones of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains??) and a little Chenin Blanc. It became a favourite tipple of European kings and emperors, from Frederick the Great to Napoleon. But the vineyards were decimated by phylloxera, the Cloete family were bankrupted, and Groot Constantia was sold to the government as an experimental station. In 1980 Duggie Jooste bought Klein Constantia, redeveloped it, and is now selling a new version of Vin de Constance made from Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.

South Africa can claim her own grape variety in the Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault (known locally as Hermitage (grape)). Pinotage was bred in 1925 by Dr. Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch.

South Africa is also notable as the second home of Chenin Blanc, known locally as Steen. However there is a lot of dreary white wine produced from some low quality clones of Steen and Colombard.[citation needed] The grapes known locally as red and white Muscadel are probably Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains demonstrating its variable colouring.

In 2006, SAWIS (South African Wine Information and Systems) reported that the country had 100,146 hectares of vineyards, with about 55 percent planted to white varieties. See table (right) for the major varieties planted in South Africa. Other grapes include Riesling (known locally as Weisser Riesling), Crouchen (known as Cape Riesling), Trebbiano (Ugni Blanc), Sémillon (Groendruif) and Muscat (Hanepoot).



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