A BRIEF HISTORY OF WINE :
Compiled by Louis-John Havemann
Little is actually known of the early history of wine. It is thought that early farmers made various alcoholic beverages from wild fruits, which would have included certain favoured wild grape varieties more than likely Vitis Silvestris, which is the ancestor to modern wine grapes. Most wild grapes are small and sour, and rarely found at archaeological sites, so it is unlikely they could have formed the basis of the world’s wine industry.
It is commonly accepted that the development of pottery vessels about 9,000 years ago in the late Neolithic era in the Near East, would have contributed to the making of wine much easier. There are some records that point to the fact that the first wine was made some 7000 years ago.
In January 2011, The oldest known winery was discovered in the "Areni-1" cave in the Vayots Dzor Province of Armenia. This winery, which is over six thousand years old, contains a wine press, fermentation vats, jars, and cups. Archaeologists also found grape seeds and vines of the species Vitis Vinifera. Archaeologists have further commented that, "The fact that winemaking was already so well developed in 4000 BC suggests that the technology probably goes back much earlier."
Winemaking spread to Egypt, with records dating back to 5000 BC. Phoenicia started making wine at about the same time. The Greeks as well as the Cretans had also begun producing wine by the year 2000 BC. In fact the Cretans became famous for exporting good quality wines.
By 1000 BC, most countries in North Africa had begun planting vineyards together with Sicily and Italy. By 500 BC wine production had spread to Spain, the south of France and Arabia. By 100 BC, wine was being made in northern India and China. Winemaking then spread to northern Europe and the Balkan States. For a 1 000 years the history of wine making was unheard of as the Roman Empire declined and Europe descended into the Dark Ages. In the 16th century exploration grew and flourished and by 1530 wine making had spread to Mexico and Japan.
Thirty years later Argentina imported vine plants and Peru followed a short while later. The South African wine industry was born with the planting of vineyards at the Cape in 1655. California followed in 1697, and Australia and New Zealand in 1813
The spread of civilisation has been followed by the development of wine cultivation and making. It is apparent as we look back at the history of the grapevine and wine making, that the basic principles of winemaking methods have changed very little. It is interesting to note that viticulturists selected and propagated different varieties of vines thousands of years ago to make distinctive and excellent wines for themselves as well as for export.
We know today that the ancient Greeks had up to 18 adjectives to describe wine and the Romans made more than 80 types of wine. Some Roman wines were apparently still drinkable after being stored for 200 years and many of the sophisticated viti- and vinicultural techniques are still in use today.
South African Wine History:
South Africa, apart from the Mediterranean, North African, countries, is one of the few countries within the African continent to produce wine, this is largely due to its southern Mediterranean climate of winter rainfall.
South Africa's history of wine making goes back 350 years, with the arrival of the first European settlers at the then Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town). Since then many people and events have made an impact on the industry. Although the first wine pressed from South African harvested grapes in 1659 was not at all good, the country has had three and a half centuries
to fully develop its wine making skills.
When The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie known as the VOC) established a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 the one single aim was to provide fresh food to its merchant fleet while sailing around the Southern Cape of Africa to India and The East. The establishment of this trading station resulted eventually in a flourishing wine industry and the birth of a Country.
Jan van Riebeeck, the first governor of the Cape, planted a vineyard in 1655, and on 2 February 1659, the first wine was made from Cape grapes. This led to the planting of vines on a larger scale at Boschheuvel, which today are the suburbs of Bishopscourt and Wynberg. Van Riebeeck strongly encouraged farmers to plant vineyards, which they, initially, were most reluctant to do because of their ignorance and lack of viticulture experience.
This led to many setbacks in the beginning and things only improved when Simon van der Stel, succeeded Van Riebeeck as the second governor in 1679. He was not only enthusiastic but also very knowledgeable about viticulture and winemaking. He planted a vineyard on his farm Constantia and made good wine from the start.
Because the Dutch had almost no wine tradition, it was only after the French Huguenots, who were religious refugees, settled at the Cape between 1680 and 1690 that the wine industry began to flourish. The Huguenots had very little money and had to make do with the bare essentials, however over time considering their culture and skills they left meaningful results on our wine industry, and the lifestyle at the Cape. They brought with them their rich winemaking heritage and by using their experience and skills, they learnt to adapt to the new conditions of winemaking at the Cape. Their legacy which they gave us is still very evident, especially in Franschoek which was where most of them settled.
The Cape wine industry went through a very difficult period during the 18th century for a number of reasons. One of the reasons was a shortage of oak wine vats; this shortage made it difficult to age the wines properly and led to poor quality wine, which in turn caused a resistance to South African wines in Europe and the Far East. Some of the oak vats used had previously been used to corn or brine meat, which did not do the taste and quality of the wine any good at all. Oak trees were planted which grew too well and too fast for the timber to be really suitable for vat making.
Lack of experience of local conditions made it difficult for wine farmers to identify the best cultivars for the different growing conditions and soils, so wine making techniques suffered as a result.
During the first half of the 19th century the Cape Wine Industry prospered. Britain had taken occupation of the Cape and she was also at war with France, this meant that French wines were unavailable to the British and her colonies. Cape wines had a huge market opened up for them as a result and wine production increased from half a million to 4.5 million litres in forty five years. During this same period Cape vines increased from thirteen million to fifty five million plants but unfortunately there was no thought of quality control and planning. Disaster struck the wine industry in 1869 when Britain and France made peace with each other. Over production caused the South African wine exports to collapse and coupled to this was the outbreak of a disease called Phylloxera, spread by a plant louse, which devastated the Cape vineyards. Phylloxera is a bacterial disease which had first appeared in the USA in 1854 and spread to France in 1863 and despite stringent controls it appeared in South Africa in 1886. There was no answer to this disease other than replanting with American vines that were Phylloxera immune.
The Cape wine farmers faced ruin and so turned to alternative farming ventures such as Ostrich farming amongst others.
The Anglo Boer War started in 1899, which threw the wine industry into overproduction and chaos and so 25 years of hardship followed.
Finally in 1918 a man called Charles Kholer created the Ko-operatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika Beperkt (KWV) in an attempt to bring law and order to the chaotic situation. The KWV, was an umbrella, which brought stability to the wine industry, this placed it on the road to growth and prosperity and led to today's thriving wine industry.
Some Important dates of the Wine Industry
1906 -The first co-operative winery, the Drostdy Ko-operatiewe Keller Beperkt, was founded in Tulbagh.
1918 - The Ko-operatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereeniging van Zuid-Afrika (KWV) was formed, by Charles Kohler thus saving the industry from disaster.
1925 - Professor Perold successfully cross-pollinated Pinot Noir with Hermitage (Cinsaut) to develop South Africa's own grape variety, Pinotage.
1935 - Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery (SFW) Limited was founded.
1936 - Nederburg wine farm was bought by Johann Graue, a German immigrant who used cold fermentation for making white table wine in the 1950s.
1940 - The Wine and Spirit Control Amendment Act was passed to control the minimum price for good wine.
1945 - Distillers Corporation was founded.
1950 - Gilbeys SA was founded.
1955 - The Viticultural and Oenological Research Institute (VORI) was founded. Today it is known as Nietvoorbij.
1959 - SFW launched Lieberstein, a semi-sweet table wine which revolutionised wine-drinking habits in South Africa.
1961 - The first Pinotage, a 1959 under the Lanzerac label, was marketed.
1964 - Lieberstein sales topped 31-million litres, becoming the world's largest selling bottled wine.
1965 - SFW, Monis and Nederburg amalgamated.
1968 - Distillers built the Bergkelder with its maturation cellars tunneled into Papegaaiberg in Stellenbosch.
1971 - Stellenbosch Wine Route, the first wine route in the country, was founded.
1973 - The Wine of Origin legislation was instituted.
1975 - The first Auction of Rare Cape Wines was held at Nederburg.
1979 - The Cape Wine Academy* (CWA), the wine industry's general education body, was founded in Stellenbosch by SFW in October. The restructuring of the Liquor Industry by government sanction took place.
1980 - Regulations regarding the residual sugar content of table wine changed - for the first time provision was made for wine exceeding 30g per litre.
1983 - The Cape Winemakers' Guild (CWG), an independent association, was formed.
1984 - Flavoured wines introduced to the market.
1985 - The inaugural CWG wine auction was held.
1990 - Changes in the Wine of Origin legislation. The SA Wines & Spirits Export Association (SAWSEA) was established.
1991 - First National Bottled Wine Show and inaugural Veritas awards.
1992 - The quota system was scrapped. Merger of KWV wine courses with the CWA. The Méthode Cap Classique Association was formed.
1993 - The Port Producers' Association was formed.
1995 - The Pinotage Association was formed. KWV International was founded.
1996 - Stellenbosch Vineyards (Pty) Ltd was founded.
1997 - KWV Registered as a private company on 01 December. ARC Infruitec - Nietvoorbij was founded.
1998 - The new Liquor Bill, a three - tier system, was approved by parliament. The CWA was registered in an independent Trust.
1999 - The new Liquor Bill was rejected as unconstitutional and referred back to parliament for amendment. The South African Wine Industry Trust was established to advance the transformation of the wine industry and promote exports.
2000 - The inaugural Cape Wine 2000, showcasing South African wines, was held.
SAWSEA was renamed Wines of South Africa* (WOSA). An independent, non-profit company representing all exporters of South
African wines, its aim is to build Brand South Africa internationally.
The Chenin Blanc Association was formed. SFW and Distillers Corporation merged to form one company