KwaZulu-Natal is designated as a Geographical Unit under the Wine of Origin classification of South African wine. It corresponds to the province of KwaZulu-Natal in the east of South Africa, which has an embryonic wine industry. As at April 2015 less than 60Ha of vines were cultivated with half of this being planted at Cathedral Peak Wine Estate in The Central Drakensburg near Winterton.
Sauvignon Blanc has been among the first to show promise in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. However Pinotage and Pinot Noir are also doing extremely well due to the cool climate, as is Chardonnay. It is anticipated that the region will potentially produce some of the countries best Method Cap Classique, as the climate is very similar to the Champagne region of France.
Tiny and Judy van Niekerk established the Stables Wine Estate in 2005, the first wine estate in KwaZulu-Natal and released the first wines from the region in 2006. Judy van Niekerk was responsible for having KZN designated as a "Wine of Origin" region in 2005 after negotiations with SAWIS.
Owners and winemakers Ian & Jane Smorthwaite bought their farm Abingdon Wine Estate in 2000 and the first vines were planted in 2004. Situated at 1100m above sea level, 'Abingdon Estate' has in excess of 2ha under vine.
Judy van Niekerk approached the KZN Government in 2007 with a proposal to fund vineyard plantings in the Tribal regions of the province creating job opportunities in under resourced regions. THis project commenced in 2009 with newer plantings of 10ha have been done at Ballito on the KNZ North Coast. Vineyards on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal are cultivating the French-American hybrid Villard Blanc, a grape cultivar that thrives in warm, humid conditions. The first wines of this was produced in Sept 2013 under the banner iLembe Co-operative Winery
The Latest Producer to register with SAWIS is Cathedral Peak Wine Estate. This Estate currently has 27ha Planted to Pinotage, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the only larger scale wine holding in the Province The flagship lable of the Estate is called Unesco-985. This particular label recognizes the uniqueness of the area and its Status as World Heritage Site. In particular the Estate is focused on zero footprint operations much like their predecessors - the San.
Wine of Origin
In 2001, vineyards were planted in KZN in what was described as a "trial run" to investigate the plausibility of growing and making wine in the region.Approximately 4 000 vines were distributed among prospective growers in an experiment led by Dr Clive Kaiser, a horticulturalist for the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture at Cedara. Eleven participating farms were cited as growers and ambitions were of rural development projects, further expansion of vineyards and subsequent wine production. Success proved dismal, and under the guidance of Kaiser, new trial vines were established at Bracken, a farm in Greytown.
In 2002, Rob Osbourne took over responsibilities from Dr Kaiser, continuing to promote the wine-growing industry in KZN with trial plantings of grapes in various pockets scattered across the Midlands. The possibility of establishing KZN as a wine-growing region attracted other interested parties to the Midlands who individually started to explore the viability of making and producing wine in a former non-demarcated Wine of Origin region. In 2010 there are a handful of growers in KZN, but two producers are recognised as major players: Abingdon Wine Estate and The Stables Wine Estate.
KwaZulu-Natal was designated as a Wine of Origin under the classification scheme of South African wine in August 2005. The first ever KwaZulu-Natal Wine of Origin wine was released by The Stables Wine Estate on 28 July 2006. These project and the follow on project at Bracken in Greytown both stopped production by 2011. The main reasons cited was its location within the mist belt.
A new Wine Area in KZN province is due to be announced by the End of April 2015. It will be called the Central Drakensberg Area. The boundaries of this area will be the KZN and Free State provincial boundary to the North, The RSA Lesotho Border on top of the Drakensberg Mountains to the West and the Estcourt to Giants Castle Road to the South and the N3 to the East.
Future production in the province is likely to occur in the dryer interior at popular tourist areas.
Altitude in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands seems to be the key to getting good results - the climate is similar to Burgundy and Champagne. The terroir here seems to suggest that wines one the higher altitudes where the midlands growers and Central Berg Area grow has more of a Bordeaux style wine.
The Coastal Areas of KZN also has vines. Along the North Coast at Ballito different results with a cultivar that is being imported from Brazil, (Villard Blanc) is attained. In 2013 this vinyard produced their first grapes and wine has been made. This project is funded by Govt investment and takes the form of an co-operative within the Illembe Municipality. It has a modern cellar and produces commercially for local and export markets.
Notes and references
- Kaiser, Clive. "History of the KwaZulu-Natal Wine Industry". Stables Wine Estate. Retrieved 2007-06-21.
- Ollerman, Ingrid (2 August 2006). "Stables puts KZN on wine map". Mercury Newspaper. Retrieved 2006-08-02.