If Jan van Riebeeck could be celebrating with us today.

Happy Birthday to us!

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Today, (Monday, February 2) is South Africa's 350th birthday as a wine-producing nation. We are unique in knowing the exact date on which our wine industry began, thanks to the diary entry of Jan Van Riebeeck, who wrote on February 2, 1659:* "Today, praise be to God wine was pressed for the first time from Cape grapes."

Van Riebeeck was sent to the Cape in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company to establish a victualling station for ships rounding the southern tip of Africa between Europe and the east and established the first vineyards.

The country, which has just recorded a record year of over 400 million litres exported in 2008, is celebrating by sending out an electronic birthday card to members of the wine industry worldwide. Local producers are being urged to forward the birthday card to all their contacts in the world of wine, says Wines of South Africa (WOSA) CEO, Su Birch.

"We hope to reach a million people. The South African wine industry has every reason to be very proud. We are internationally recognised for our eco-friendly wine production and we have increased exports threefold in the space of just ten years. Despite extremely tough global trading conditions, in which many of our competitors experienced a decline in exports, we sold over 407 million litres of wine off-shore last year, a growth of 32% on the previous year."

South Africa is the ninth biggest producer of wines in the world.

* "Heeden is Gode loff van de Caepse druyven d'eerste mael wijn geparst"

Please click here to view the electronic card.

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