South Africa is probably the only country where it is exactly known when viticulture started. Jan van Riebeeck, commander of the first Dutch settlers (1652) at the Cape of Good Hope (presently Cape Town), can be called the first wine farmer (Perold, 1936). He imported vines in 1655 and made the first wine in 1658 from grapes grown in gardens around the fort. More formal vineyards were established in the vicinity of a suburb that is today still called Wine Berg.In 1685, Simon Van der Stel, the Governor of the Cape Colony, probably made the first terrain selection, selecting from available land the cool and wind sheltered Constantia area in the Cape Peninsula for his vineyards. Here he made red wines of outstanding quality and planted imported German cultivars in 1705 (Archer & Saayman, 1996). During the period 1780-1890, Constantia gained international status with the demand for its natural sweet wines, inter alia by King Louis Phillipe and Napoleon Bonaparte of France and Bismarck of Germany. However, the fame of Constantia, and other reputable wines, were progressively undermined by inferior quality wines being offered under their names on the export market. Today Constantia and its environments is a demarcated ward and its wines are again highly esteemed by wine connoisseurs.

The Dutch settlers, turned farmers, were at first unenthusiastic about viticulture, but the advent of the French Huguenots in 1688 markedly stimulated the young wine industry (Perold, 1936), especially around Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl (Fig. 1). Willem Adriaan van der Stel, succeeding his farther as Governor, was a great believer in the wine industry and developed Vergelegen, near the present day Somerset West, where he planted 100 000 to 250 000 vines (Perold, 1936). Realising the quality of the grapes grown in the Cape, the Governor-General, Baron von Imhoff, in 1743 recommended that viticulturists be obtained from the Rhine and France to instruct the settlers in wine- making. The 1793 statistics of Commissary De Mist showed the Cape to have 0.86 million vines and Stellenbosch (at that time including Caledon, Paarl, Malmesbury, Piketberg, Tulbagh, Ceres and Worcester districts, Fig. 1) 0.91 million vines, reflecting the zonation and size of wine growing regions for the whole colony at that time (Perold, 1936).

Wynboer - January 1999 - The Development of Vineyard Zonation and Demarcation in South Africa

Von Imhoff also recommended the importation of French and European grape-vine varieties. This was only fully realised when Perold imported about 100 of the best grape varieties of Europe and Algeria on behalf of the Government (Perold, 1936). The British occupied the Cape in 1806 and from 1811, when Great Britain could not obtain European wine, officially encouraged viticulture at the Cape and introduced preference tariffs in 1813, causing a dramatic stimulation in the wine industry (Burger, 1977). In 1880, the first investigation into the presence of the feared phylloxera was done. At that time there were over 120 million vines in the Western Province, comprising 44 000 to 45 000 acres (Perold, 1936), viz. approximately 18 000 ha. Phylloxera broke out in 1886, but no time was lost in importing American vine material from France. This enabled the Cape grape producers to overcome the crisis.

Presently South African viticulture comprises more than 103 000 ha (308.8 million vines), of which about 91% are planted to wine grapes, producing more than 1 000 million liters of wine (Archer & Saayman, 1996). The traditional viticultural regions, that include the Western Cape Coastal Region (inter alia Constantia, Durbanville, Darling, Stellenbosch, Somerset West, Paarl, Wellington and Tulbagh), and parts of the Swartland (inter alia Darling, Malmesbury, Porterville and Piketberg, have a frost free Mediterranean climate (Fig. 1), with about 30% of the annual precipitation during the growing period, mainly in spring and autumn. Because of the generally highly weathered, acid soils with a low organic material content and low cation exchange capacity, often gale force winds and limited water reserves, moderate vigour and moderate production levels are experienced. Because of this and a relative cool climate, the emphasis in these areas is on quality wine production.

In inland areas, separated from the coastal zone by mountain ranges and characterised by high aridity indexes, viticulture mainly developed along river valleys like the Breede, Hex (almost exclusively table grapes), Olifants and Orange Rivers, where water for irrigation was available (Saayman, 1988). The latter region has a summer rainfall and specialises in early maturing table and raisin grapes, although bulk wines are also produced.


The wines originally produced in South Africa were generally of fair quality, of which the outstanding Constantia wines can be considered as the first wines of origin’ from South Africa. However, lack of control over quality and origin of wines sold under the name of Constantia eventually caused a decline in demand for these wines. The wine industry as a whole also flourished and declined, especially because of unscrupulous exporting of inferior wines and the phylloxera disaster. Overproduction of wine developed at the beginning of the 20th century but financial ruin was averted by the formation of the Co-operative Wine Growers Association (KWV), which insured stability but also restrained free economic enterprise (Kok, 1976).

Gradually merchants and producers started to specify cultivar and vintage on labels of better quality wines, but without any control over the indicated claims. Most farmers delivered their grapes at co-operatives, but a number still made wines on their farms and started marketing it as estate wines, again with no control over the specifications. However, the latter producers soon realised that no control could jeopardise their capital investment and requested the Minister of Agriculture to protect and control the marketing of estate wines. The need for demarcating areas for the production of wines of origin was supported by the Nietvoorbij Wine Research Institute and the KWV (Kok, 1976).

Wine legislation in South Africa covers a wide field, i.e. plant mate- rial certification; health and technical control on wine; production and price regulation; wine export; import and distribution control; customs and excise and wine of origin control (Kok, 1994). Only the development and structure of wine of origin will be dealt with in this presentation. Successful production and marketing of wine in the modern world is only possible if it is rigorously controlled. For this, legislation and inspection services are needed. In South Africa, being a relatively young wine producing country, legislation was regularly amended and since becoming a member of the OIV in 1961, decisions taken by this organisation had a strong influence on South African legislation (Kok, 1994). In 1969 estate wine producers requested the Minister of Agriculture to protect the marketing of their wines and in 1970 he appointed two Commissions of Inquiry to investigate the feasibility of demarcating areas of production and the marketing of estate wines (Kok, 1976). As a result, a Wine of Origin Control system was in place in 1973, with the Act on Liquor Products (Act no. 60 of 1989) stipulating that any indication of origin, cultivar or vintage is prohibited unless the area, district or ward is demarcated and the wines have been produced in terms of the control system (Kok, 1994).

The wine of origin concept received further support and acceptance because of research results during the seventies. In field trails the marked effect of soil on wine character could be demonstrated (Saayman, 1977). This work also showed that wine character is not necessarily determined by an intrinsic soil property, but that it is largely influenced by the climate of the specific season. Therefore, the soil effect may vary from year to year. Presently the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) Nietvoorbij Centre for Vine and Wine is still actively engaged in research aimed at quantifying soil (W J Conradie, 1998 – paper to be presented at the Territory & Wine Symposium, Siena, Italy) and climatic factors that have prominent effects on wine character.


Demarcation was and still is done by technical experts appointed by the Wine and Spirit Board, the controlling organisation. These experts are viticulturists, oenologists and soil scientists, drawn from research institutions, producer organisations and the wine industry. The Wine and Spirit Board used to be part of the sub-directorate Liquor Control of the Department of Agriculture, who administered the Wine, Other Fermented Beverages and Spirit Act 25 of 1957. This Act became too cumbersome and was replaced by the Liquor Products Act of 1989 (Anon, 1997), which allowed the privatisation of the Wine of Origin Scheme in 1990.

The demarcation process started in 1972 (Kok, 1976). Demarcation is not forced on producers but only investigated on application of interested producers or groups, and implemented if found viable. In a young wine country like South Africa, where tradition is not well developed and sufficient experimental information is lacking, it is only natural and logic that much emphasis is placed on soil and climatic aspects (Saayman, 1976). The basic principle is, therefore, to demarcate areas according to natural features, principally landscape and soil patterns, macro climate and ecological features. This allows producers in a demarcated area to develop their vitiviniculture within this demarcated area, and consequently the area to distinguish itself as unique in terms of wine style or character, rather than having to prove this before demarcation.

Four categories of demarcated areas were and still is basically used, viz. regions, districts, wards and estates. The present situation concerning already demarcated units, is shown in Table 1. Four regions, eleven districts and 42 wards, as well as 92 estates (data not shown) are already demarcated. With the present revival of the wine industry because of improved export opportunities, a substantial increase in demand for demarcation can be expected.

Region District Ward
Breede River
Robertson Agterkliphoogte
Le Chasseur
Worcester Aan-de-Doorns
Swellendam Buffelsjags
Klein Karoo Montagu
Coastal Region Paarl Constantia
Stellenbosch Jonkershoek
Devon Valley
Swartland Groenekloof
Olifants River Koekenaap
Overberg Walker Bay
Rietrivier OVS
Boberg (For the use
of fortified wine
from Paarl
and Tulbagh)

Although divisional districts (administrative boundaries) were used to demarcate the larger, more encompassing regions, their boundaries still conformed to a high degree to macro geographical features like mountain ranges and rivers and they represent broad climatic regions. For the second category, the smaller districts, the boundaries of divisional districts were again mostly used, but in such a way as to represent more defined macro climatic regions, sometimes necessitating the grouping of more than one district, or only parts of districts. The third category consists of still smaller units called wards, and can be considered the most refined. For ward demarcation the following factors are considered:
1.All soil and climatic factors, or combinations thereof, that may have an effect on wine quality.
2.Existing cultural practices in any area that may effect the wine character or distinguish one area from another.
3.Existing experience and evidence, proving that an area can really produce an unique wine.
4.Geographical and other factors that contribute towards the development of a traditional wine area.
5.The traditional name of an area that properly describes the area and by which the area has become known with the passing of time.

The fourth category is estates. The basic requirements here is that the land must be owned by the same producer(s), that only grapes from the demarcated property may be marketed under the name of the estate, that officially approved wine-making facilities exist on the estate and that the wine must be vinified on the estate. The demarcation of estates is consequently largely an administrative matter.

The demarcation of wards is essentially based on land types. The land type concept is unique to South Africa and was proposed by Macvicar et al. (1974). The land type survey of South Africa culminated into a series of Memoirs on the Agricultural Natural Resources of South Africa and accompanying 1:250 000 land type maps. A land type is defined as a class of land over which the macro climate, the terrain form and the soil pattern each displays a marked degree of uniformity. This uniformity is such that there would be little advantage in defining more uniform landscapes. One land type differs from another in terms of one or more of macro climate, terrain form or soil pattern (Macvicar et al., 1974). Using the method of Kruger (1973), 1:50 000 topo-cadastral maps and field surveys were used to map areas of uniform terrain on a 1:250 000 scale, called terrain morphological types. In its turn, terrain types consist of terrain morphological units, which can be crest, scarp, middleslope, footslope and bottomland.


The 340 year old history of viticulture in South Africa started with the first planting of vines by the Commander of the first Dutch settlers at the Cape. Further expansion was encouraged by succeeding Governors and also stimulated by the arrival of the French Huguenots in 1688. Constantia wines became internationally famous and thus were the first “wines of origin” from South Africa. After the British occupation of the Cape in 1806, viticulture was further stimulated due to the inaccessibility of Europe and its wines to Britain at that stage.

Vineyards were mainly established in the south-western coastal zone around the Cape and in adjacent inland synclinal river valleys were irrigation water was available. These areas, characterised by a Mediterranean climate, are still the main wine producing regions today. Towards 1850, wine exports reached an all time low because of the deterioration in wine quality, mainly as a result of the absence of control over origin and quality. This problem was realised by the industry and resulted in a Wine of Origin Control system since 1973.

Demarcation of existing vineyards was, and still is, done by technical experts, using four categories, viz. (1) Regions, based on broad geographical features and administrative boundaries; (2) Districts, based on geographical and macro climatic features; (3) Wards, essentially based on uniform soil, climatic and ecological patterns; and (4) Estates, based on the concept of singular ownership of vineyards and wine being produced on the estate.

To demarcate wards, land type maps are used. Land types are a concept unique to South Africa and is defined as a class of land over which the macro climate, the terrain form and soil pattern each displays a marked uniformity. Land types differ from each other in terms of macro climate, terrain form or soil pattern, or combinations of these natural factors. Lacking sufficient tradition, experience and experimental information, compared to the old world wine countries, the philosophy behind demarcation in South Africa is to identify natural terrain units, using available technical information, and then allowing such units to develop and demonstrate particular wine styles and character, rather than demanding proof of uniqueness before demarcation is done.


ANON, 1996. Documentation, The Secretary, Wine of Origin Scheme, PO Box 2176, Dennesig, RSA.

ANON, 1997. The Liquor Products Act. The SA Licensee’s Guardian. pp.140-144.
ARCHER, E. & SAAYMAN, D., 1996. Technical Tours. 76th General assembly of the OIV, Cape Town, South Africa, 10-18 Nov. 1996.

BURGER, J. D., 1977. A review of the South African vitiviniculture and present research in this respect with special reference to the quality of the vintage. International symposium on the quality of the vintage, 14-21 February, 1977, Cape Town, South Africa. KOK, C., 1976. The wine of origin concept in South Africa. Unpublished document. Nietvoorbij Research Institute for Vine and Wine, Stellenbosch, RSA.

KOK, C., 1994. La legislation du vin en Afrique du Sud. 2nd International Symposium on Wine and Vine Law, 27-29 April, Wine University, Suze-la-Rousse, France.

KRUGER, G. P., 1973. Konsepte, tegnieke en prosedures vir die globale hulpbronopnameprogram (terrein). Soil and Irrig. Inst. Report No. 154/73/784. Dept. Agric. Tech. Services. Pretoria.

MACVICAR, C. N., 1973. Konsepte, tegnieke en prosedures vir die globale hulpbronopnameprogram (klimaat). Soil and Irrig. Inst. Report No. 154/73/784. Dept. Agric. Tech. Services. Pretoria.

MACVICAR, C. N., SCOTNEY, D. M. SKINNER, T. E. NIEHAUS, H. S. & LOUBSER, J. H., 1974. A classification of land (climate, terrain form, soil) primarily for rainfed agriculture. S. Afr. J. Agric. Extension, 3(3): 1-4.

PEROLD, A. I., 1936. Historical Notes on the Cape Wine Industry. In: The Wine Book of South Africa. The Western Province of the Cape, and its Wine Industry. Wine and Spirit Publishers, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

SAAYMAN, D., 1976. Wines of origin concept and how it is implemented with regard to soil and climate. Sixth meeting of the SARCCUS Standing Committee for Soil Science, Stellenbosch, 13-15 January, 1976.

SAAYMAN, D., 1977. The effect of soil and climate on wine quality. International symposium on the quality of the vintage, 14-21 February, 1977, Cape Town, South Africa.

SAAYMAN, D. 1988. The role of environment and cultural aspects in the production of table, raisin and wine grapes in South Africa. I & II. Dec. Fruit Grow., 38(2): 60-65; 38(3): 90-97

VERSTER, E., 1973. Konsepte, tegnieke en prosedures vir die globale hulpbronopnameprogram (grond). Soil and Irrig. Inst. Report No. 154/73/784. Dept. Agric. Tech. Services. Pretoria.

(Paper delivered at the International Symposium on Territory and Wine, Siena, Italy, 19-24 May 1998). Fig. 2: Traditional wine region centres and climatic regions of the Western Cape Province.

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