Have you ever noticed the letters “W.O.”, followed by the name of an area or region, on the back of your favourite bottle of wine?
Simply put, the acronym “W.O.” is short for the term “Wine of Origin”, which stands as a confirmation that all the grapes used to make that particular bottle of wine were harvested from that specific area.
Officially instituted in 1973 – the South African Wine of Origin certification scheme aims to ensure that the country’s most admired wine producers adhere to a legislative origin control system regulating how wine regions are defined and represented on their wine labels.
According to Elize Coetzee, Cellar Master at Zonnebloem wines, this is important because by knowing a wine’s origin,you'll be able to understand the wine’s terroir – another expression that can cause a great deal of confusion for the average wine-drinker.
She says: “Terroir, which refers to the impact that the climate, soils and terrain of a particular area has on the taste of a wine, is vitally important as some regions are naturally superior in terroir to others, based on their natural surroundings and geological makeup.
Home to more than 200 wine and grape producers, Stellenbosch has become known for producing excellent, award-winning wines – a reputation that can definitely be ascribed, in part, to the region’s superior terroir.
With plenty of sun, but reasonable temperatures, the well-drained weathered soil found in Stellenbosch provides the perfect foundation for the production of top quality grapes, however, that just knowing a wine is produced in Stellenbosch does not necessarily mean the grapes being used are from the area of Stellenbosch. This is where the term ‘Wine of Origin’ becomes so important.