Although the facts clearly indicate when and where the first Shiraz wine was made in South Africa, there is uncertainty as to exactly when the cultivar entered the country.
A variety of theories prevail: that the cuttings were brought to the Cape from Europe by the end of the 1600’s by Governor, Simon van der Stel and another that Scotsman James Busby, a viticulturist and the man credited for introducing Shiraz to Australia, offloaded some cuttings in Cape Town on his way from Europe in 1840. The first confirmation of it being planted on South African soil was at the end of the 1890’s in the vineyards of Groot Constantia.
Shiraz was mentioned later in the history when 15 wines were entered in the Cape Agricultural Wine Competition in 1935. Interestingly, 12 of these were sweet wines.
In 1957 winemaker Bernard Podlashuk, generally referred to as “The Father of Shiraz in South Africa”, was the first to bottle Shiraz as a single cultivar under the Bellingham label. He was followed in 1963 by Groot Constantia and in 1965 by Klawer Co-op. By 1978 a mere 20 wines were recorded but the early 1990’s saw a boom in plantings and local popularity pretty much followed world trends. From 1992 vineyards expanded by leaps and bounds from approximately 900 hectares to about 10 000 hectares in 2009.
Today Shiraz is the 2nd biggest planted red variety in South Africa after Cabernet Sauvignon and fourth overall after Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Colombar. It was also the most planted variety between 2000 and 2010.
Compared to the rest of the world SA has the 4th biggest plantings of Shiraz.