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The establishment of a victual station at the Cape midway through the 17th century led to the planting of the first vineyard in 1655 and the making of wine from grapes grown at the Cape on 2 February 1659. As in Europe, certain areas and farms became known for wines with their own distinct character. The wines of Constantia, for instance, became famous - and even today are considered among the finest ever produced. 

For a long time, this uniqueness of the South African-wine producing areas and farms was not legally protected. An official Wine of Origin scheme was only established in 1972, when legislation in this regard was formulated. This new scheme would not only protect wines of origin but also wines made from a specific cultivar or vintage.

Certain basic principles were taken into consideration when the system was formulated. It was, for example, necessary to comply with EU regulations because a great deal of South African wine was exported to Europe. Principles such as honesty in business, factual terms, titles, adaptability, local marketing truths and free participation were addressed. 

South Africa's Wine of Origin certification scheme was officially instituted in 1973, in accordance with the Wine, Other Fermented Beverages and Spirits Act of 1957.