The early history of South African wine can be traced to the founding of a supply station at the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Company Jan van Riebeeck was given the task of managing the station and planting vineyards to produce wine and grapes in the Wijnberg (Wine mountain Area); that could be used to ward off scurvy for sailors continuing on their voyages along the spice route In 1685, another Cape Governor, Simon van der Stel, purchased a large 1,850 acre (750 hectare) estate, founding what later became the world-renowned Constantia wine estate In the 19th century, South Africa fell under British rule which proved lucrative for the wine industry as South African wine flowed into the British market.

This prosperity lasted until the 1860s when the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty signed by the Palmerston government and France reduced the preferential tariffs that benefited South African wine in favor of French wine exports.