Wine of Origin System in South Africa

As in Europe certain areas and farms have become renowned for the wine that they produce, for  a long time this uniqueness was not protected. In 1972 legislation was formulated to introduce the Wine of Origin scheme. This scheme not only protests the origin but the specific cultivar and vintage.  The scheme complies with EU regulations as a large amount of wine is exported to Europe. This scheme was officially instituted in 1973, in accordance with the Wine, Other Fermented Beverages and Spirits Act of 1957.

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). Nature is considered to have a greaqter influence as in certain areas vines grow better and soil climate and location affect the taste of grapes produced and thus the wine. If a wine claims origin the law requires that 100% of grapes come from that specific area.

Demarcation of areas of origin

A production unit can be any size from a single vineyard to a geographical unit; these are all defined by law and published in the Government Gazette.An Estate wine has to be produced in adjoining vineyards farmed as single units and all processes up to bottling must occur at the estate, this wine may then be certified as an estate wine and thus labeled and marketed as such.

The largest demarcation is a geographical unit, there are currently 3 geographical units in South Africa, namely Western Cape, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

A region is the next demarcation, these are defined according to the surrounding area name, such as rivers, valleys etc.

Regions are further divided into Districts and the districts into wards

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.

Table of Demarcated Wine Producing areas
Le Chasseur
WORCESTER Aan-de-Doorns
Hex River Valley
KLEIN KAROO No district Montagu
No district Tradouw
No district Tradouw Highlands
No district Upper Langkloof
No district Outeniqua
No district Constantia
No district Hout Bay
TYGERBERG Durbanville
PAARL Franschhoek Valley
Voor Paardeberg
STELLENBOSCH Jonkershoek Valley
Devon Valley
Polkadraai Hills
DARLING Groenekloof
SWARTLAND Riebeekberg
No district Spruitdrift
No district Vredendal
No district Bamboes Bay
No region OVERBERG Elgin
Klein River
No region CAPE AGULHAS Elim
No region WALKER BAY Hemel-en-Aarde Valley
Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley
Sunday’s Glen
Bot River
Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge
No region PLETTENBERG BAY No ward
No region No district Prince Albert Valley
No region No district Lamberts Bay
No region No district Swartberg
No region No district Cederberg
No region No district Ceres
No region No district Herbertsdale
NORTHERN CAPE No region No district Rietrivier FS
No region No district Hartswater
No region No district Lower Orange
No region DOUGLAS No ward
KWAZULU NATAL No region No district No ward

Cultivar in the wine of origin Scheme

All the cultivars used in South Africa belong to the Vitis vinifera species which was originally imported from Europe. Most cultivars are imported but there are a those that are unique to South Africa created by crossing varietals. The best known is the red variety Pinotage, which is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. Also attracting attention is the white variety Nouvelle, a crossing of Semillon and Crouchen Blanc (better known as Cape Riesling). There are approximately 75 cultivars approved for the production of wines of origin. The name of the culivar may be placed on the label if 85% of the content orininates from that cultivar

Grape cultivars to which the Wine of Origin Scheme applies :
  • Alicante Bouschet (Henri Bouschet)
  • Auxerrois, Barbera
  • *Bastardo do Castello
  • *Bastardo do Menudo
  • Bukettraube
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Carignan
  • Chardonnay
  • Chenel
  • Chenin Blanc (Steen)
  • Cinsaut (Cinsault)
  • Clairette Blanche
  • Colombar (Colombard)
  • Cornifesto
  • Crouchen (Riesling**;Cape Riesling; Kaapse Riesling)
  • *Donzellinho do Castello
  • *Donzellinho do Gallego
  • Durif
  • Emerald Riesling
  • *Erlihane
  • Fernão Pires
  • Furmint
  • Gamay Noir
  • Gewürtztraminer
  • Grachen
  • Grenache (Red/Rooi)
  • Grenache Blanc (White/Wit)
  • Harslevelü
  • Kerner
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Meunier (Pinot Meunier)
  • Morio Muscat
  • *Mourisco Tinto
  • Mourvèdre (Mataro)
  • Müller-Thurgau
  • Muscat d’Alexandrie (Hanepoot)
  • Muscat de Frontignan (Muscadel)
  • Muscat de Hambourg
  • Muscat Ottonel, Nebbiolo
  • Nouvelle
  • *Olasz, Palomino (White French)
  • Petit Verdot (Verdot)
  • Pinotage
  • Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder)
  • Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio)
  • Pinot Noir
  • Pontak (Teinturier male)
  • Riesling*** (Rhine Riesling; Weisser Riesling)
  • Roobernet
  • Rousanne,
  • Ruby Cabernet
  • Sangiovese
  • Sauvignon Blanc (Blanc Fumé)
  • Schönburger
  • Sémillon (Groendruif)
  • Shiraz (Syrah)
  • Souzào
  • Sultana (Sultanina; Thompson’s Seedless),
  • Sylvaner
  • Tannat
  • Tempranillo (Tinta Roriz)
  • Therona
  • *Tinta Amarella (Tinta Amarela; Trincadeira; Trincandeira Preta)
  • Tinta Barocca
  • Tinta Francisca
  • Touriga Franca
  • Touriga Nacional
  • Ugni blanc (Trebbiano)
  • Verdelho
  • Viognier
  • Weisser Riesling (Rhine Riesling)
  • Zinfandel (Primitivo)

* This Scheme is applicable to this cultivar only until 31 December 2010.

**This name (Riesling) may only be used for wine produced from the Crouchen grape cultivar until, and inclusive of, the 2009 grape harvest.

***This name (Riesling) may only be used for wine produced from the Weisser Riesling/ Rhine Riesling grape cultivar as from the 2010 grape harvest.


With time, changes take place in a wine and therefore the age of a wine, with specific reference to vintage, can serve as a guide to another aspect of its character. 

The vintage which appears on the label of a wine confirms that at least 85% of the content of that bottle is from that specific claimed year. Vintage may only be indicated on a label if the wine is certified by the Wine and Spirit Board.

Certification as a guarantee to the public

A certification seal is a guarantee to the public that the claims made on the label are true and the wine was of good quality when cerfitied. A wine can only be certified when when all requirements of the wine of origin scheme are met i.e.  origin (eg Paarl), cultivar (eg Riesling) and vintage (eg 1997), the wine is also evaluated by one of the tasting panels of the Board and samples of all wines are also scientifically analysed to determine whether all the legal requirements have been met.

If a claim is to be made on origin, cultivar or vintage, a wine has to be certified. A certification seal is put on the packaging of such wine, confirming that while being evaluated by the Board the wine was of good quality and that any claims made on the label were checked and are truthful. 

Strict control is administered when a producer wants to certify a particular wine. Through an identification number on each certification seal, all information, from the pressing of the grapes, through the wine making process, to the certification of the final product, can be established. Control is exercised at the following stages: when an application is made to press grapes, during pressing, blending and bottling, and also when the preliminary and final approval is given.

During censorial evaluation to have the wines certified, the judges look for the following possible unacceptable quality characteristics:


Wine is not brilliant as it contains suspended particles or sediment, or excessive crusting has taken place and it can be described as slightly turbid.


With regard to age, cultivar and type of wine, it has:

· Too much colour

· Faulty colour

· Insufficient colour


With regard to age, cultivar or type of wine:

· Has no or insufficient recognisable wine flavour.

· Reveals so much wood character that it dominates the wine flavour.

· Has an insufficient or faulty cultivar character.

· Has an undesirable flavour (eg sulphuric compounds, oxidised, phenolic,

geranium, volatile acidity, ethyl acetate, sulphur dioxide, cork, filtering material,

oil, paint, mould, etc).

· Has the character of an over-matured wine.

· Has an excessively sharp spirit or brandy flavour.

· Does not display the required distinctive flavour.

Taste With regard to age, cultivar or type, the wine:

· Has no or insufficient recognisable taste, it can be described as watery

· Reveals so much wood character that it dominates its recognisable taste.

· It is too astringent: press must, stalk or husk character dominate its taste.

· Has an insufficient or faulty cultivar character.

· Has an undesirable taste (eg too acidic, too harsh, too bitter, or that of sulphuric compounds, oxidised, phenolic, geranium, volatile acidity, ethyl acetate, sulphur dioxide, cork, filtering material, ethyl acetate,

oil, paint, mould, etc).

· Has the character of an over-matured wine.

· Does not display the required distinctive taste.

Label Requirements

The label committee has to approve all labels before they can be used on certified wines as prescribed by regulations.

All compulsory particulars such as the class name, alcohol content, name and address or code number of the responsible seller, the origin appellation or the name of the geographical unit has to appear in the same visual field on one or more labels of a bottle of wine. Click HERE to see details of information which must appear on the label.  

Compulsory information must be clearly distinguished from other information on the label. The following information may only be used with regard to the selling of wine if the Wine of Origin Scheme authorises it:

· The name of the area which is defined as a unit for the production of estate 
  wine, ward, district, region or geographical unit.

· Names of grape cultivars.

· The indication of vintage.

· The words ‘estate’, ‘vineyard’, ‘origin’ and ‘vintage’.

· The term ‘Wine of Origin’.


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