Spatial characterisation of terrain units in the Bottelaryberg-Simonsberg-Helderberg wine growing area (South Africa)

The first South African wine was made by Jan van Riebeeck on the second of February 1659. His initial determination to produce wine at the Cape refreshment station was continued by other governors resulting in improvement and expansion of the embryo industry. As the colony opened up and new areas were discovered, so the wine industry developed to its present extent of over 100 000 ha (SAWIS, 1999). The initial expansion was based on ease of access and mainly focussed on fertile valleys, with rivers to provide irrigation in the more arid regions. Yield was often the overriding factor considered. However, when over-production became a problem in the early twentieth century, the focus was moved to quality. This eventually resulted in the introduction of the Wine of Origin legislation in 1973. South Africa is, therefore, a relatively young wine-producing country and has little tradition or experimental data to support delimitation of areas of origin. Such areas are demarcated on application by the producers. Natural factors, such as landscape, soil and macroclimatic patterns are used to determine boundaries, after which these demarcated areas are allowed to develop to express their specific wine style and character instead of proving their originality beforehand (Saayman, 1998). The identification and spatial characterisation of terrain units will act, therefore, as a scientific basis for the delimitation of areas for the production of characteristic wines of high quality. It will also provide an important basis for future development and management decisions and enable South Africa to remain competitive in an ever-expanding international wine market.

Authors: Victoria. Carey (1), V.B.F. Bonnardot (2)

(1) ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij, Private Bag X5026, Stellenbosch 7599, South Africa
(2) ARC Institute for Soil Climate and Water, Private Bag X5026, 7599 Stellenbosch, Republic of South Africa

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