- a well-established wine-producing country that first started growing vines in the 17th century and is now the world’s ninth-largest wine producer. The major wine-producing regions are in the southwest of the country and are now regulated by an appellation system called Wine of Origin (WO), introduced in 1973 and equivalent to the European model. As in all the other wine-producing countries in search of export markets, new plantings are rapidly being carried out. The country’s wine production has historically been dominated by sweet fortified sherry-like wines, but it now produces a wide range of good-quality red, white and sparkling wines. The main white wine grapes grown are Chenin Blanc (called Steen locally), still the country’s most widely planted variety, together with Crouchen, Clairette Blanc, Sémillon, Colombard, Muscat, and the ubiquitous Chardonnay. red wine grapes include Cinsault (called Hermitage locally), Pinotage, Merlot and Syrah (Shiraz). The South African wine industry suffered greatly during the apartheid years when international trade diminished as sanctions were introduced. The arrival of democracy in 1994 forced change, and the South African Wine Industry Trust was created in 1999 to promote the transformation of the wine industry. White owners still predominate, but change is happening slowly. In 2001 the Vineyard Academy was launched to provide vineyard workers with skills training in various fields. Amongst the most important areas are: Constantia, boasting some of the most famous estate names such as Groot Constantia and Klein Constantia, producing superb Sauvignon Blanc, and Sémillon wines; Durbanville, which offers some wonderful Sauvignon Blancs; Paarl, which has cellars both large and small and wine from the ordinary to the sensational – the focus is on Syrah (Shiraz), but some fine Chenin Blancs and Pinotages are also produced; Robertson, which is looking to produce good red wines, especially from Syrah (Shiraz) grapes; and Stellenbosch, considered by many to be South Africa’s best wine-growing area, with more than 80 wineries and all the most famous South African wine names and growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinotage, and Chenin Blanc.