Number of Riesling Producers:
Total Riesling Acreage (hectares):
Total Riesling Production (cases):
Although South Africa is regarded as a New World wine producer, the first grapes were pressed for wine at the Cape in 1659 under the command of Jan van Riebeeck. He had come to the Cape in 1652 to establish a settlement on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. Vineyards were planted more extensively a generation later, when the French Huguenots began arriving from 1688 onwards, fleeing religious persecution.
Another impetus for the freeing up of the industry was South Africa s return to international trade after decades of isolation under apartheid rule. With political reform and the advent of democracy in 1994, there was an influx of financial and intellectual capital into the wine industry. Locally trained winemakers began traveling to other wine- producing countries, to study abroad or work in the cellars of leading winemakers in the Old and New World. Viticulturists began playing a far more prominent role and producers became keenly aware of the need to focus on noble cultivars, to use superior plant material and also to match varietal with terroir, in the process discovering and developing new winegrowing areas. They also began adopting techniques to better express specificity of site in flavour profile. At the same time, producers began developing a knowledge about international markets, and the needs and demands of consumers. So, it is fair to say that the modern South African wine industry is a little over a decade old and has had to catch up very fast. Despite this, at the start of this decade, South African wines were receiving positive attention in international markets and notably earning prestigious awards at events such as the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London, Vinexpo in France and Mondiales in Brussels, as well as on other Office Internationale de la Vigne du Vin (OIV) events.
Riesling is a very small variety for South Africa. The total plantings of Riesling is only 211 hectares, which constitutes 0.37 % of the total white grape plantings and 0.21% of the total red and white great plantings combined. Currently there is no dominant Riesling producing area in South Africa, but an area like Elgin is slowly starting to make a name for itself. Elgin has the largest percentage of Riesling plantings compared to any of the other wine growing regions, however it is only in the region of 4% of total plantings.
Stylistically, South African wines have been said to occupy the middle ground between Old World and New. Structured for elegance and food compatibility, they nevertheless express prominent varietal flavours. As South Africans positively embrace their diversity of soils and climate this will be reflected in increasingly distinctive and complex wine. What is unique is that South Africa has soils which are millions of years older than any other wine growing region in the northern hemisphere thus allowing for greater variety.
Many of the viticultural and oenological practices are similar to those in France and Germany as many of South Africa’s leading producers have studies in Europe.
South Africa has a strong Indian influence as part of its history. Riesling being the perfect partner for these many dishes ranging from Briyane to Masalas.