Who killed innovation in the Cape wine industry? The story of a stuck fermentation c. 1930-1986

Paul Nugent*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

Abstract / Description of output

The main constraint facing the Cape wine industry at the turn of the twentieth century was the overproduction of cheap wine from inferior cultivars. In the context of an official commitment to promoting 'good wine', this chapter examines the fate of innovation in the vineyard, the cellar and the marketplace. It argues that innovation in one domain often delivered short-term gains that were checked by the lack of transformation elsewhere. It identifies four key periods of innovation before the mid-1990s: the 1930s when serious attempts to replant vineyards and develop an export market were undermined by the KWV; the 1950s when the discovery of cool fermentation permitted a breakthrough in quality for white wines but drove small producers into the arms of cooperatives that became a barrier to further innovation; the 1960s when, in the context of the de-racialization of the liquor laws, merchant-manufacturers pioneered new brands but failed to conquer the Black market; and the 1970s when independent producers sought to bottle their own (largely red) wine but were constrained by the KWV system of regulation. The KWV protected the small producer and rewarded quantity over quality, largely for political reasons. In the 1980s, overproduction, the smuggling of planting material and the dumping of cheap wine signalled a crisis in the industry that was only resolved following deregulation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransforming Innovations in Africa
Subtitle of host publicationExplorative Studies on Appropriation in African Societies
EditorsJan-Bart Gewald, André Leliveld, Iva Peša
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers
Chapter2
Pages17-38
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9789004245440
ISBN (Print)9789004245235
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2012

Publication series

NameAfrican Dynamics
Volume11
ISSN (Print)1568-1777

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