Winemaking in South Africa
When on South African holidays, a visit to the Winelands of the Cape is an unforgettable experience. There has been change, in the 350 odd years (some of them very odd years) that South Africa has been growing and producing wines.
First produced here in the 1650s, Cape wine was sought after in the 18th and 19th centuries when, famously, Napoleon Bonaparte and Jane Austen (unlikely bedfellows if ever there were) respectively drank, and wrote about, the sweet Constantia wine. Fortunately, it is now being deliciously reproduced and is once again on sale to emperors, novelists and others - even travel agents.
New attitudes, methods, technologies, understanding and enthusiasm have revolutionized the way wine is made and enormous investments in capital and expertise has improved production at every level.
While our wine makers still treasure some old and established varietals and styles, there is a tremendous excitement within this vibrant and constantly expanding industry.
On your South African holidays it is notable that the Cape is clearly a region made for the vine and the will and passion to make fine wine has grown as steadily as the vineyards that creep higher and mightier every year among the blue valleys of the Winelands.
New generations of young, talented and completely committed wine farmers, viticulturalists, wine technicians and winemakers have driven the industry forward at a cracking pace, particularly since South Africa rejoined the real world after the release from prison of former President Nelson Mandela.
And, of course, as part of the transformation of South Africa since this period, change within the wine industry continues to gather momentum - not fast enough for some, perhaps, but positive and measurable nonetheless.
Empowerment initiatives, literacy and skills training and steady improvements in living and working conditions have taken place throughout the industry at all levels.
If visitors on South African holidays are particularly keen on exploring this aspect of the industry, they may like to visit a winery wholly owned by people who were, until not so long ago, underpaid farm workers. One such initiative in the industry was the aptly named 'New Beginnings', which is producing wine just outside Paarl.
Thandi wines, up in apple-growing country near Elgin is another - and there are several other initiatives which form part of well-known wine estates. An organisation committed to change within the wine industry is the Black Association of Wine and Spirit Industry (BAWSI) - which does not yet have a website or e-mail address.
There is also a responsible and dedicated attitude within the industry to environmental and sustainability issues and a very careful approach to production methods and ecological and agricultural responsibilities.
It is heartening to see flocks of white ducks marching through the vineyards munching snails like an eco-friendly pest control squad.