Practical Aspects of Viticultural Zoning In South Africa

[English version below]

Depuis 1973, une commission statutaire administre la législation qui régit le zonage vitivinicole en Afrique du Sud. La province «Le Cap de l’ouest» cerne toutes les zones viticoles sauf quatre unités. Pour la plupart, le Cap de l’ouest a un climat méditerranéen. Les zones viticoles – qui produisent les «vins d’origine» – sont des régions, des districts, des quartiers et des domaines. Les régions sont vastes, séparées par la topographie, par ex. des chaînes de montagnes et des fleuves. Généralement, chaque région représente une zone climatique. Le climat de chaque district est plus homogène. Les quartiers sont exactement délimités par le climat, la topographie et la géologie. Les domaines sont les plus petits. Chaque domaine doit avoir un seul propriétaire.
En Afrique du Sud, chaque zone viticole peut développer un caractère unique. Pour la répartition en zones, on s’adresse à un comité. Le comité comporte des experts techniques qui sont spécialisés en sciences naturelles et viticoles, des membres venant de l’industrie et des institutions de recherches et d’éducation. Le candidat doit soumettre des données sur les variations climatologiques, la topographie, et les types de sols. Le comité approfondit les données et propose une zone viticole. Ensuite, le comite entre en pourparlers avec le(s) candidat(s), et annonce la délimitation pour assurer l’accord de chaque parti intéressé. Les producteurs doivent se soumettre à l’inspection faite au hasard, pour revendiquer le droit d’imprimer «vin d’origine» sur des marques. La commission se méfie des renseignements trompeurs sur des marques. Pour assurer un degré d’excellence, le vin doit subir des épreuves chimiques et sensorielles avec succès.

Legislation for demarcating ‘wine of origin’ units in South Africa, took effect in 1973 and is administered by the statutory Wine & Spirits Board. The Western Cape Province is an umbrella geographical entity, which encompass all wine of origin units, excepting four wards situated in the Northern Cape and Orange Free State. The Western Cape encompasses an area with a predominant Mediterraœan climate, largely conforming to what is known as the ‘Winter Rainfall Region’. Four categories of units of origin exist, viz. regions, districts, wards and estates. Regions are large, encompassing units, but with borders largely following macro geographical features like mountain ranges and rivers, representing broad climatic zones. To demarcate districts, divisional (administrative) boundaries were mostly used, but in such a manner as to represent more homogenous macro climatic zones. Wards are at present the most strictly zoned. Natural environmental factors, viz. climate, topography and soils/geology, are mainly used for demarcation. The smallest units are estates. The basic requirements are that the property must be owned by one producer or organisation, that adequate vinification facilities must exist, that the wine must be made on the property, and that only wine from grapes from the property may be marketed under the estate’s name.
Having only about 340 years of viticultural history, more emphasis is placed on natural factors than on tradition and demarcated units are allowed to develop their own character in terms varieties, cultural practices and wine styles. Applications for demarcation go to the Wine & Spirits Board, which has a Demarcation Committee dealing with this. This committee consists of technical experts in the fields of viticulture, enology and soil/environmental sciences. Members are drawn from industry, research and educational institutions, without representing any ofthese. The applicant must supply data on natural factors. Usually these are climatic patterns, topography, natural features like rivers, mountains or hills, and in the absence of detailed soil maps, land types. The latter is a concept unique to South Africa. The Committee then studies this data and the area and then propose a demarcated unit. This proposal is negotiated with the applicant (s), and when consent is reached, without sacrificing the technical principals involved, the demarcation is advertised to ensure the consent of other possibly interested parties. Producers in the demarcated unit are obliged to register with the Wine & Spirits Board and to record all movement of grapes, musts and wine for random inspection, if they want to claim ‘wine of origin’ on their labels. The Board guards against misleading information on labels and all wines of origin have to pass chemical and sensorial testing to ensure minimum standards.

Author: Dawid SAAYMAN

Distell, PO BOX 778, Bergkelder, 7599 STELLENBOSCH (Afrique du Sud)

Email: dsaayman@distell.co.za

Keywords: zonage vitivinicole, aspects pratiques, l’Afrique du Sud
vineyard zoning, practical aspects, South Africa

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