An unequal harvest: The French Huguenots and early Cape wine-making ['n ongelyke oes: Die Franse Hugenote en die vroeë Kaapse wynbedryf]

Fourie, Johan
Von Fintel, Dieter
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There is as yet little understanding of the impact of the arrival of French Huguenots during 1688/1689 on the Cape wine industry in the Dutch Cape Colony. Van Riebeeck already produced the first wine at the Cape in 1659. Under Company officials, notably Simon and Willem Adriaan van der Stel, production expanded rapidly until, at the turn of the 17th century, the Lords XVII in Amsterdam limited private farm ownership by Company officials and paved the way for free farmers to take up viticulture. These included the 159 French Huguenots that had arrived a decade earlier to augment the free European population at the Cape by at least a third. Not all farmers were instantly successful, however, and, after rapid early adoption, wine production increased piecemeal over the course of the eighteenth century. Most of this activity was restricted to the areas west of the first mountain ranges. We posit that the skills, knowledge and secrets of wine-making the French Huguenots possessed at their arrival allowed them to produce better quality wines more productively than the non-French settlers. By using quantitative production data - the opgaafrolle were collected for the purposes of taxation - over more than seven decades of European settlement, we show that the Huguenots produced significantly more wine and did so more productively than the other settlers. The dataset allows for a number of control variables, including inputs (vines and wheat reaped, which also acts as a proxy for land), other capital (slaves, horses and cattle) and labour (knechts, or European labourers). But the standard factors of production (land, capital and labour) do not explain the difference: the "additional advantage" of the Huguenots remain despite these controls. The only plausible alternative hypothesis is that the knowledge, skills and secrets of viticulture allowed these Huguenots to produce quality wine, an invaluable asset in the fight against scurvy on the long ship voyages between Europe and the East. We test this hypothesis by splitting the sample into two groups: those that originate from wine-producing provinces in France and those that originate from non-wine producing provinces. Using only this subsample (and thus eliminating the possibility of institutional differences between the French Huguenots and the other settlers), we show that the Huguenots from wine-producing regions are more adept at making quality wine than their Huguenot compatriots who originate from non-wine producing regions. The skills, knowledge or "secrets" of producing quality wine brought with them from France gave these Huguenots a competitive advantage, which allowed them to consistently secure a market for their produce and thus expand production.
Please cite as follows:
Fourie, Johan, & Fintel, Dieter Von. (2011). 'n ongelyke oes: die Franse hugenote en die Vroeë Kaapse wynbedryf. Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe, 51(3), 332-353.
The original publication is available at:
Cape colony, Development, Huguenots, Inequality, Poverty, Slaves, South Africa, Trade ships, Viniculture, Viticulture, VOC, Wine making
Fourie, Johan, & Fintel, Dieter Von. (2011). 'n ongelyke oes: die Franse hugenote en die Vroeë Kaapse wynbedryf. Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe, 51(3), 332-353.