Viticulture was introduced into South Africa
by the Dutch in the 17th century, but it only really took off in the following century with the arrival of French Huguenots, who were expert wine growers. The vineyards were decimated in the late 19th century. It was only after apartheid was ended and the world's export market opened up, that South African wine, hitherto boycotted, could experience a renaissance.
The vineyards now cover about 110,000 hectares, located in the Cape region to the south of the country and concentrated in the Stellenbosch area. It is the Benguela ocean current that cools the country's west coast that makes this area ideal for viticulture. South Africa has a designation of origin system that divides the wine producing areas into regions, districts and estates. The name of a vineyard or its translation cannot be used as a geographical indication, but can be used as a brand name.
About 50 grape varieties are currently grown in South Africa. This great diversity has come about, not only because of the important climate differences in the Cape region, but also because of the drive and the initiative of the wine producers who are often willing to try new varieties. South Africa traditionally produces mainly white wines (85%), but this proportion is on the decrease due to growing exports of almost exclusively red wines.