Through the years legends about the origins of Shiraz or Syrah as it is often called, have abounded. There was a time when it was generally believed that this grape variety originated in ancient Persia (present-day Iran) in the town of Shiraz. On the other hand historians are of the opinion that it was brought from the Middle East to Marseilles in approximately 560 BC. One of the theories was also that Roman legions from Egypt carried it to Syracuse on the island of Sicily and yet another that it found its way into France through Crusaders from Cyprus returning from the Middle East in the 13th century.

However, these turned out to be nothing but romantic tales as in the late 90’s it was declared that Shiraz actually originated in France. Using DNA testing, grapevine identification experts Carole Meredith, a professor at the University of California at Davis, and Jean-Michel Boursiquot of L’Ecole Nationale Superiore Agronomique de Montpellier, made the conclusive announcement in 2001 at a convention of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture. Shiraz, it was proclaimed, is the offspring of two obscure French varieties, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche – the former native to the Ardéche and the latter native to the Savoie.

Bernard Podlushuk, generally considered the Father of Shiraz in South Africa.


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.