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Wine of Origin scheme

View the production areas with a classification of regions, districts and wards or access maps of the wine regions of South Africa.


Importance of origin

Because the role of origin is so important, an origin control system has for many years been in place in the traditional winelands of Europe, to protect both the producer and consumer. The two factors which play the most important role in determining the character and quality of a wine are nature (soil, climate and location) and the human hand (cultivar choice, viticultural practices and winemaking techniques). Of these two, nature is considered to be the more important factor with a greater influence. In certain areas vines grow better and within the South African wine-producing areas there are differences in soil, climate and location which cause wines to vary from region to region.

If a wine claims origin, it is the statutory regulations which ensure that the wine really is from that origin. When the term 'Wine of Origin' or the abbreviation 'W.O.' together with the name of a production area, such as Stellenbosch, Durbanville or Robertson appears on a label, it confirms that 100% of the grapes from which the wine was made come from that specific area.

Demarcation of areas of origin

A production unit can be any demarcated area, from a single vineyard to a geographical unit. The borders of all production units, small and large, are defined by law.

A unit for the production of single vineyard wine is the smallest production unit and may not exceed six hectares. The second demarcated production unit is a unit for the production of estate wine, which can consist of one or more bordering farms, as long as it is farmed as a unit and has its own production cellar on the unit where the wine is produced.  Where the term estate wine appears on the label, it confirms that the wine was produced from grapes grown on that specific unit. The third demarcated production unit is a combination of different farms and is known as a ward, eg Franschhoek and Constantia. The term ‘ward’ is used for a small demarcated viticultural area which includes farms and usually, but is not necessarily part of a district. The Voor Paardeberg ward is, for instance, part of the Paarl district, but the Cederberg and Constantia wards are not part of a specific district. The fourth demarcated production unit is a district, such as Paarl, Stellenbosch and Robertson. The term ‘district’ is used for a demarcated viticultural district, which does not necessarily follow the borders of the former Regional Council districts. The fifth demarcated production unit is a region, eg Klein Karoo and Coastal Region, which is a combination of different districts or portions of districts.

Production in South Africa has over the years proved that each area of origin lends its own unique character to wine and that certain areas deliver better quality for specific wine types. The Boberg region includes the Paarl district and a portion of Tulbagh, and may only be used for the marketing of dessert wines. The Coastal Region is an encompassing region which is defined to enable producers to blend wines from different districts, but market them under one name of origin. It includes districts from Paarl, Stellenbosch, Swartland, part of Tulbagh and the former regional council area of the Cape, which include the wards of Constantia and Hout Bay.

Criteria for the demarcation of areas of origin

When a ward is defined, soil, climate and ecological factors play a very important role as they have a clear influence on the character of the wine. The proposed area name also has to be the real geographical place name and nature has to dictate that the specific area can actually produce wines with a distinctive character.

Districts have to meet the same criteria as wards but with a broader definition of the relevant area using macro geographical characteristics such as mountains and rivers. Naturally, a greater variety of soil types are allowed than in the wards.

Regions are mainly defined according to the encompassing area name which in the case of a river stretches from the source to the mouth thereof. When it comes to an estate, which can consist of one or more farms, it has to be accepted that the natural factors can differ but it is distinctive because in most cases there is only one producer and the farms are run as a unit.

Geographical unit

On 2 April 1993, the Wine of Origin Scheme was amended to make provision for the defining of a geographical unit. Currently, five geographical units have been demarcated, namely Western Cape, Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Eastern Cape.