Veuve Clicquot docks in Cape Town

Veuve Clicquot docks in Cape Town.

Wine Goggle » Let’s Honour the Fallen Heroes of SA Wine

Wine Goggle » Let’s Honour the Fallen Heroes of SA Wine

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In Memoriam – Ross Gower

By John Ford

We were so sad to hear of the death, today, of Ross Gower, one of the most talented winemakers South Africa has seen. He has fought a long, hard & courageous battle against cancer, and we all hoped he would win it.

Lynne first met Ross at Klein Constantia in 1986 when she came back to Cape Town from London to visit her family and after the first meeting and tasting of his marvellous wines, it became a ritual to go there whenever she was here to taste them again and buy some to take back to London. She had a standing joke with them that she was working on ‘Aunty’ to get that knighthood for Ross for his services to wine. He was a big man in every way but gentle and quiet and unassuming. He was worthy of all the awards and accolades he received in his career, and there were many. Being in the wine trade, we were delighted when he went out on his own with his family and set up Ross Gower Wines in the Elgin valley and we loved visiting the farm to see the Gowers and drink their wines. One really stunning memory we have is, just a couple of years ago, of drinking a bottle of Ross’s 1989 Klein Constantia Chardonnay and finding that all the character had lasted, just as he had expected it to. This wine was awarded a double gold Veritas, 4½ stars in Platter in 1991 and was selling on the farm that year for R19, when Vin de Constance was selling for R25 a bottle. We were so disappointed to discover, on receiving a copy of Vin de Constance, the book that covered the history of this special dessert wine and its rediscovery, that Ross Gower was not mentioned once. This was a huge mistake, given his major role in the renaissance of this wine. We remember the very dignified letter he wrote to Wine magazine after the book was published in which he told the story of the renaissance of the wine and gave credit to all the influences which led to it.

Another, lighter, memory is of meeting Ross, Sally and Rob at Vinexpo in Bordeaux in 2007, and being invited to attend a tasting of vintage Bruno Paillard champagnes with them. Ross had notoriously bad handwriting and his badge had been printed with the name Raul Gomez.

We still have some of his wine in our personal cellar and over the years it has become our custom to drink what we think is one of the best, a bottle of Ross’s Marlbrook, at Christmas dinner. We have never been disappointed with its quality, depth and finesse. We will continue to drink them as long as we can.

Our wine world has lost a very special, talented man. Sally and their children will no doubt continue the fine family tradition he established. We grieve with them and wish them solace and comfort in his memory.


The Renaissance of South Africa Wines

By Jim Seder – Editor and publisher of the Wine Inquirer – Arizona

When it comes to wine, chances are that South Africa does not come to mind.  What most do not appreciate, however, is that the country has been producing wine since the 1659 and serving the spirit to European nobility since the 18th century.  While the economic sanctions imposed by apartheid suppressed the industry, it was the political reform of the system and the advent of democracy that once again opened the door to progress.  With the end of apartheid came a surge in financial and intellectual capital that spilled over to the wine industry.  This allowed for rapid development of plant materials, search for new winegrowing geography, improved winemaking techniques and new applied technologies.

Today, the modern South Africa wine industry is only in its infancy, just 15 years of age.  Despite its youth, it has made astounding progress, receiving deserved attention and winning awards from several international events.  As of this writing, the country boasts over 600 wine producers, double the number year 2000.  Wine exports surged over 300% between 1995 and 2007 placing the country in the overall ninth in international wine production.  Nearly 4000 farmers cultivate almost 102,000 hectares of land.

With South Africa home to as many as 9600 plant species in the very small Cape Floral Kingdom, more than the entire Northern Hemisphere, the local wine industry has created the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI) to minimize losses that could otherwise threaten the Kingdom.  This initiative aims to reduce CFK losses through biodiversity best practices such as preventing loss to any micro-habitat in critical sites and increased total area set aside as natural habitat in contractual protected areas.  By creating such a focus on biodiversity, South Africa is positioning itself as a unique wine producing entity.  In 2006, over 90% of the harvest was said to be compliant with an environmentally sustainable system of wine production called the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW).

While the wine industry in still quite young, the country’s geology speaks of a very distant past, yielding some of the most ancient vitacultural soils on the planet.  The Precambrian deposits of shale and schist are dated back some 550-1,000 million years.  Massive geological upheavals has resulted in one of the most scenic wine producing regions in the world, offering majestic mountain ranges interspersed with deep valleys, all creating a myriad of mesoclimates and soils.

Soils in the region, as you might expect, can be quite diverse due to differences in topography and geology.  The coastal regions have sandstone mountains resting at times upon a granite foundation while lower elevations see shale.  This yields both sandy soils with poor nutrient and water retaining properties if from the sandstone mountains and/or red-yellow and acidic soil from granite with good physical and water retention properties.  Soils from shale tend to have good nutrient and water retentive properties.

The highly regarded red and brown soils, usually found in granite hills and foot slopes, located at elevations of 150-400m, are highly weathered, acidic, well drained and very stable, offering excellent water retention properties.  Other soil composition consists of sand, gravel and clay.

As varied as is the topography of the region, so are the locations of the vineyards, ranging from the valley floors, to the hills, to steep mountain slopes.  The diversity of terrain produces a multitude of mesoclimes.  A given farm may have one vineyard at nearly sea level and another some 600m in elevation.  In general, northern and western slopes are warmer than the southern and eastern due to increased sunlight.  Vineyards planted in the mountainous terrain can be challenged with adequate sunlight due to deep shadows in the early morning and late afternoon.

The overall climate of South Africa is Mediterranean, with the coastal regions receiving a cooling sea breeze, the result of ocean currents flowing northward from the Antarctica, while the inland regions are more temperate.  While winters can be cool, frost is a rare visitor.  While the coastal regions receive adequate rainfall from May through August, inland regions to the north and northwest require irrigation.  In general, the climate is described as three tiered: macro, meso and micro.  Macro refers to the climate of the region, micro as that of the vineyard and micro, the conditions surrounding bunches of grapes and flow around the vine canopy.

Analgous to the Mistral wind that roars through the Rhone region of France, at times with speeds up to 90 mph, the Cape has its version called the Cape Doctor.  This legendary southeast wind blows across the southwestern Cape region in the spring and summer, drying out the vineyards and inhibiting disease.  It can, however, occasionally bring rains to the southern most coastal zone vineyards.

Varietal Production:

White varieties constitute about 55% of the total grape plantings, Chenin Blanc comprising nearly 20% of the total.  Red varieties account for the remainder with Cabernet Sauvignon accounting for 13%, Shiraz at 10%, Merlot at 7% and the indigenous Pinotage (blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsault) 6%.  With shortages of the white varietals over the last couple of years, plantings of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay has increased.

Wine Growing Regions:

Bot River:  Cool maritime climate; Varieties include Chenin Blanc,
Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage, Shiraz, Rhone varietals.


Cape Agulhas:  Maritime influence; Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Shiraz

Cape Point: Maritime influence; Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon

Constantia:  Site of 17th century wine farm and 18th century Constantia dessert wines;  Sauvignon Blanc

Darling:  Sauvignon Blanc

Durbanville:  Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon

Klein Karoo:  Muscat, Merlot, Port style wines, brandy


Lower Orange:  Most northerly winegrowing sub-region; Chenin Blanc,
Colombard, Chardonnay, Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet
Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Muscadel, Muscat


Overberg:  Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Shiraz

Paarl ( translated= Pearl, named after a large famous granite outcrop):
Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon,
Pinotage, Shiraz
Contains the gourmet capital of the Cape

Philadelphia:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot

Plettenberg Bay:  Maritime; Sauvignon Blanc

Robertson:  Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz
(outstanding red wine region)

Stellenbosch:  17th century winemaking, renown for its terroir, highly sought
after region, known for red blends and most noble wine
varieties.  Center of wine education and research and the
Stellenbosch Wine Route for tourists.

Swartland (translated=the black land, from color of the rhino bush certain time of year):   Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvigon, Pinotage, Shiraz, port style wines

Tulbagh:  Cool region due to cold air trapping between mountains; Shiraz

Walker Bay:  Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinotage, Merlot,
Shiraz;  a side treat is outstanding whale watching

Worcester:  Important brandy producer

Some producer names to look for are: Boekenhoutslkoof, Morgenhof, De Trafford, Mulderbosch, Ken Forrester, Finlayson, Graham Beck (Sparkling Wine), Ernie Els, and Thelma Mountain,

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Graham Beck Wines’ ultra premium Cuvée Clive goes nationwide

Lovers of fine fizz are undoubtedly bubbling over at the news that the crème de la crème of South Africa’s Cap Classique style wines is now enjoying increased availability. . Graham Beck Wines’ maiden vintage Cuvée Clive 2003 (from the cellar’s Prestige Collection) is distributed exclusively throughout the country by DGB (Pty) Ltd, South Africa’s largest independent wine and spirit producer and distributor.

Although this spectacular sparkler has been available directly from the Graham Beck Wines cellar doors since its release in 2009, the decision to make it more widely available is sure to be hailed as an excellent move by wine lovers everywhere.

“Over the years Graham Beck Wines has definitely earned its status as one of South Africa’s leading Cap Classique producers, while establishing a loyal following amongst lovers of this time honoured style of wine across the globe. We are thrilled that our bubblies are the drink of choice to mark milestones, celebrate special moments and bear witness to memories in the making. Cuvée Clive represents the pinnacle of our Cap Classique artistic inspiration and creative endeavours – the culmination of meticulous planning, determined effort and tenacious dedication in the pursuit of the perfect bubble,” comments Graham Beck Wines celebrated cellarmaster Pieter “Bubbles” Ferreira.

In 1991 Graham Beck Wines commenced the quest to produce world class Cap Classiques. Their soils possess a unique limestone character which ensures natural acidity in the grapes. On the Beck family farm, Madeba, in Robertson the team has been hard at work renewing their Cap Classique vineyards – planting better, more virus resistant material to improve the overall quality of the grapes harvested.

Since 2002 they have consistently reaped the benefits of these improvements and witnessed a considerable shift towards producing increased quality on both the Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay – the traditional building blocks of their award winning range of Cap Classique wines. The Cuvée Clive 2003 is a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, with the former contributing elegance and fruit finesse, while the latter lends body, structure and length of flavour.

In the cellar both hand-picked varietals for this exclusive Cap Classique were separately bunch pressed. Only the highest quality juice (tête de cuvée which means ‘head of the class’) was selected and allowed to settle overnight. The juice was then fermented in stainless steel tanks at 16ºC with a small portion of the Chardonnay fermented in specially designated Piece Champenoise (205-liter) French oak barrels.

After fermentation only the very best portions were chosen for their minerality, elegance and finesse. The wine was then bottled for the secondary fermentation to take place, after which it benefited from no less than 60 months yeast contact before disgorgement. The Cuvée Clive is made in the brut style with only a minimal amount of sugar added at disgorgement.

Unquestionably the wines which elicit the greatest admiration in a sparkling wine range are the prestige cuvées or cuvée speciale. These wines are the result of a favourable vintage and only produced in exceptional years. They represent stricter selection than for the normal vintage wine and reflect extreme care in the cellar and the pursuit of even greater excellence.

“How can this remarkable bubbly be so complex, so subtle and, yet, so mature? That’s the alluring paradox of Cuvée Clive Vintage 2003! The wine is irresistibly approachable and well rounded – youthful and gorgeous from the get-go, but with the potential to age. It’s exceptionally versatile – the perfect partner to a wide variety of dishes. Cuvée Clive has undoubtedly achieved the fundamental requirement of that which defines a prestige cuvée – complexity,” explains Pieter.

Prestige Cuvées are often named after prominent characters with a connection to that producer, for instance Veuve Clicquot’s La Grande Dame and Pol Roger’s Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. Cuvée Clive is named in honour of Graham and Rhona Beck’s oldest son, Clive, who died tragically in his 30’s. As a committed family wine business Graham Beck Wines felt it only fitting to dub this iconic wine Clive.

Cuvée Clive 2003 is available at bespoke retailers and restaurants, including Makro Woodmead, Norman Goodfellows, Carolines Fine Wine, Wine Concepts on Kloof, Cellars Hohenort Hotel, Cape Grace, Mount Nelson, Parklane Cellars (PMB), etc.  Approximate retail price:  R450 (Incl VAT) per bottle.

All creatures great and small

Graham Beck Wines unveils an exciting ‘new’ label

Out with the old and in with the new! Aficionados of the popular Graham Beck Wines  Gamekeeper’s Reserve range will be thrilled to discover a sophisticated new makeover to this eye-catching and distinctive label. Whilst the message behind the wine and the outstanding quality in the bottle remain unchanged, the name has been altered to better reflect this innovative producer’s unswerving concern for the environment.

The 2009 Chenin Blanc and 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon in this range now sport the new name ‘The Game Reserve’, which more aptly expresses this well loved cellar’s commitment to conservation and biodiversity. Over the years Graham Beck Wines has become an internationally recognized leader in sustainable wine production and most recently was lauded for their efforts in the high profile inaugural Drinks Business Green Awards.

The label design for both The Game Reserve wines has also been subtly tweaked to be more contemporary and appealing, while still remaining authentic to the theme of conservation. The Chenin features the endangered and highly elusive South African Riverine Rabbit and taking pride of place on the Cab is the majestic kudu (antelope) – both are fitting symbols of Graham Beck Wines’ commitment to preserving the country’s unique fauna and flora.

“At Graham Beck Wines we believe in giving nothing less than our very best. Our dedication to farming sustainably and producing environmentally and ethically responsible wines in harmony with nature is a long term commitment to safeguarding the health and welfare of our planet,” maintains Graham Beck Wines GM, Gary Baumgarten.

“In recognition of our dedication to reducing the environmental impact of our activities and ensuring the preservation of our ecological future, Graham Beck Wines holds no less than Champion Status from the Biodiversity in Wine Initiative (BWI), a partnership between the South African wine industry and conservationist concerns,” comments celebrated Graham Beck Wines cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira.

The wildlife reserve situated on Graham and Rhona Beck’s Robertson estate, Madeba, is an unparalleled success story. Around 1885 hectares of natural vegetation have been demarcated for conservation, inspiring many neighbouring farms to follow suit. The Reserve is home to many endangered animal and plant species and comprises large tracts of highly sensitive succulent Karoo veld, one of the three major types of vegetation found within the world famous Cape Floral Kingdom. By purchasing The Game Reserve wines, wine lovers are making a tangible contribution towards the preservation of South Africa’s precious natural heritage.

The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc 2009

The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc 2009 is a 100% Chenin Blanc. The fruit for this wine was harvested from 40 – 50 year old dryland low yielding bush vines planted on very deep soils. The grapes were left to ripen fully to ensure the development of rich, ripe flavours and complexity.

Aromas of upfront tropical fruit, ripe melon, pineapple, peaches and honey abound, while on the palate delicate flavours of ripe tropical fruit intermingle. The final product is a rich, full-bodied wine with a juicy palate and long, clean and crisp aftertaste. It’s an ideal food wine, great company for alfresco lunches and perfectly suited to a wide variety of dishes such as grilled chicken or fish, rich pasta dishes and spicy food.

“I love Chenin Blanc as it’s such a rewarding varietal. Chenin loves the South African climate and is an extremely versatile grape. The older vineyards deliver some of the best fruit and can undoubtedly produce world class wines,” comments Erika Obermeyer, Graham Beck Wines Franschhoek winemaker.

The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 is a 100% Cab. The fruit for this wine was sourced from a selection of prime Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards from the Robertson Estate including a site located on the South-East facing slope of the Rooiberg Mountain that incorporates the game reserve on the Graham Beck property. The vines are planted on red Karoo soil which is also home to the delicate, yet resilient fynbos which the game feed on adjacent to the vineyard. These vines yield around eight tons per hectare.

The grapes for this wine were handpicked at full phenolic ripeness during the second week of March 2008. In the cellar they were destalked, gently crushed and fermented with four daily pump overs to ensure maximum extraction. Once dry, the juice was pressed and transferred into 2nd fill French and American oak for malolactic fermentation in barrel. The wine spent a further 10 months in barrel to develop complexity and a full mouthfeel.

“It’s a wine with gorgeous aromas of black berry fruit, dark chocolate and cassis on the nose complemented by secondary cigar box whiffs and spicy mineral flavours. This classy Cab delivers a rich, juicy entry and elegant palate with a long satisfying finish,” says Irene Waller, Graham Beck Wines Robertson winemaker. “It’s divine with roast meat dishes, barbeques, venison or even as an excellent match for a robust and creamy mushroom risotto,” she reveals.

Both wines are available from the Graham Beck Wines cellar door at  R50.00 (Incl VAT) per bottle for The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc 2009 and  R80.00 (Incl VAT) per bottle for the The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. These wines, distributed by DGB on behalf of Graham Beck Wines, are also available at Makro, Ultra Liquors and other selected retailers as well as bespoke restaurants. For more information contact Etienne Heyns on 021 874 1258 or


With the 2009 vintage hailed as one of the most outstanding in living memory, the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group of South Africa (SBIG) is pleased to announce that it will be showing a range of top examples of this variety at Prowein in Dusseldorf, Germany, from 21 to 23 March 2010.  “It is an honour and a privilege for us that Wines of South Africa (WOSA) has once again asked us to present a theme tasting after the success of a similar table at Prowein two years ago” according to Erika Obermeyer, chairperson of the SBIG.

As in the past the SBIG table will be manned by Pieter de Waal, who has presented similar tastings at many other international shows over the past few years.  He states that: “the value of exposing top examples of South African Sauvignon Blanc at international shows is that visitors walk away with a new perspective on the quality and diversity that is the signature of our Sauvignon Blanc wines.  In the past decade we have seen more and more interest, especially because our wines offer such a wide range of flavours and styles, yet manage to have a golden thread of crisp fruit, minerality and balance running through them”.

According to Petra Mayer, WOSA’s representative in Germany, South African Sauvignon Blanc “offers the consumer a premium quality taste experience at a very competitive price seen in international terms.   The wines have the benefit of showing great balance and length with a core of intense fruit that lingers on the palate.  This is what consumers in Germany are looking for and we are confident that South African Sauvignon Blanc has a bright future ahead of it as more consumers get to taste and enjoy it”.

The SBIG has also been asked to do two presentations as part of the “Down To Earth” series of seminars at Prowein (  These presentations, entitled “Sense of Place”, will be showing the unique growing conditions that the Cape offer for the cultivation of world-class Sauvignon Blanc wines, whether it be a vineyard less than a kilometre from the ocean or one more than a kilometre above sea level.

The following wines have been selected as the “Pick of the Pack @ Prowein 2010”:

Boschendal 1685 Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Cederberg Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Constantia Glen Sauvignon Blanc 2009
D’Aria Sauvignon Blanc 2009
De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Diemersdal Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Durbanville Hills Rhinofields Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Fryers Cove Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Graham Beck Pheasant’s Run Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Iona Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Jordan Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Lomond Pincushion Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Nederburg FIFA Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Neil Ellis Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Nitida Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Oak Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Spier Private Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Springfield Life from Stone Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Steenberg Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Tokara Reserve Collection Elgin Sauvignon Blanc 2009

For more information on Prowein, visit:
For more information on WOSA Germany, visit:  www.


ISSUED BY:  The Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group of South Africa (SBIG)
Contact: or 083 357 3864

Visiting on their Vespa’s

Posted by Ethene and David traveling the Winelands on their Vespa’s

For the full story go to

“Afterwards Pieter Ferreira (Mr Bubbles) invited us to Graham Beck’s Robertson cellar to sample the whole range of their Method Cap Classique sparkling wines. From the non-vintage Graham Beck Brut and Brut Rosé, via the vintage wines to the awesome Cuvée Clive, these are delicious examples of fine bubblies and it’s easy to see why more and more people are discovering the delights of drinking bubbles as everyday fare, rather than for celebrations only. Somehow we managed to pilot our Vespas back to the hotel, where we hear Pieter Ferreira is entertaining a French winemaker to a farewell dinner after he’s spent a vintage in the Cellar here.This could turn out to be a long, vinous evening.”

Sustainable farming practices


Once upon a time on farms in Stellenbosch owls roamed the vineyards looking for mice.
But as years passed and farming techniques became less friendly towards them, farmers stopped spotting them as often. As the owls disappeared, the mice became a pest for the farmers.

Some said it would be wise to introduce chemical solutions to control the mice, despite their harsh green footprint. But wine farm Neethlingshof decided on a more sustainable measure: bring back the owls. The challenge was to get the owls to breed again on Neethlingshof to establish a resident population, the farm management says. “As their favourite way of hunting is swooping down on their prey, owl posts were erected on the vineyards close to where the field mice created the most damage.”

Since the introduction of the programme, the number of mice has dropped considerably. Now Neethlingshof is selling the narrative of the return of the owls to its farms as a wine.
The Owl Post tells the story of how owls and not chemicals defeated the mice. Wine critics love the wine, not simply for its green story, but because the wine matches its green credentials with taste. The Owl Post, a single-vineyard Pinotage, was formerly known as Lord Neethling and is one of the estate’s premier wines.

Neethlingshof also markets its flagship Bordeaux blend, The Caracal, in the same way. Previously known as Laurentius, the wine celebrates the return of the rooikat, or caracal, to Neethlingshof. Although abundant in the Western Cape until the middle of the past century, a loss of habitat and natural prey (guinea fowl and small antelope) slashed their numbers.Neethlingshof staff say that in the past two years caracal living in the hills of the adjoining Bottelary conservancy started migrating to Neethlingshof, attracted by the swarms of guinea fowl.

“There are strong indications that caracal have started breeding in the densely wooded areas around the granite hills on the farm,” the farm’s staff say. The wine farm is just one of many Cape wine farms that are opting for the green route, conserving the unique Cape Floral Kingdom and using sustainable farming practices.

Like Neethlingshof, Lomond near Gansbaai has used conservation as a marketing tool for its wines, naming them after fynbos such as the Conebush (shiraz), Snowbush (white blend) and Pincushion (sauvignon blanc). Lomond conserves about 200ha, including Elim ferricrete fynbos, which is an endangered vegetation type. It is also a member of the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy. All its vineyards, planted in 2000, were established on previously cultivated land and not on virgin land.

Because 90% of South Africa’s wine production occurs within the Cape floral kingdom, environmentalists were concerned that the Cape might lose its fynbos to make way for vineyards.

But following an initial study by the Botanical Society of South Africa and Conservation International, the wine industry and the conservation sector began a journey together to protect the rich biodiversity of the kingdom. Called the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative, it presents a great opportunity for both the wine and conservation sectors.

The wine industry benefits from using the biodiversity of the floral kingdom as a unique marketing tool to sell its wines to green-conscious consumers, while conservationists benefit from pioneering biodiversity best practices in the wine industry.

Champions of the initiative include Backsberg, Cloof Wine Estate, Delheim, Hermanuspietersfontein, Graham Beck Wines, Vergelegen and Waverley Hills Organic Wines. Like many of these farms, Neethlingshof moved away from a monoculture of vines and, by doing so, it has been able to reserve 116ha, or 42%, of the farm for conservation.

Corridors of indigenous vegetation were created to allow free movement of non-flying insects between vineyards and renosterveld areas.

In the past five years the farm has strived to recreate a balance between vineyard developments and natural fynbos and renosterveld. In certain cases vineyards were uprooted and replaced with renosterveld species that occurred naturally in this environment. The eradication of alien vegetation is an ongoing process and to date 15ha have been cleared and the return of renosterveld species promoted. Renosterveld islands are created within existing vineyards to promote the return of beneficial insects that occurred in the vineyards many years ago.

Although biodiversity from the outset formed the basis of the replanting programme, it really gained momentum only when viticulturist professor Eben Archer was appointed on a permanent basis at Neethlingshof in 2003, farm management says.

The main purpose of the biodiversity programme is to restore the natural wild life (insects, birds, snakes, small mammals and caracal) to help regain the original balance.

The insects help control pests in the vineyards. To keep their numbers in check, guinea fowl, for which they are a natural food source, were introduced, while certain undisturbed wooded areas attracted caracal (which in turn prey on guinea fowl) from the hills of the adjoining conservancy. No snakes on the farm are harmed because they help control rodents damaging the roots of the vines. Owl posts are spread through the vineyard. But farming green with wine is not only about protecting the fauna and flora.

Green wine pioneer Backsberg states proudly that every underlying principle of its policies and business must be evaluated to see what impact it has on the environment. It then adjusts its principles accordingly. Michael Back, proprietor of the estate, says Backsberg is committed to operating in a green and sustainable way and thus the integrity of what the farm does has to be above reproach and open to debate.

The first area of focus for Backsberg was to reduce its carbon footprint. Back says a carbon audit revealed that 90% of the farm’s emissions were from electricity and fuel.
Energy reductions the farm has introduced include buildings being fitted with energy-saving bulbs. It has also investigated skylights to introduce natural lighting. Backsberg’s diesel boiler was replaced with an ozone generator, “meaning that all sterilising is now done with ozone-enriched water”, Back says. The fermentation temperature control of red wines was revamped totally, with water from the dam used to cool the wine down to the appropriate temperature. The dam water can be recycled, which does not impact on the farm’s water footprint. The farm also replaced large tractors with smaller vehicles and it has scaled down its vehicles in general.

SA wines a corker at UK awards ceremony
South African wines sparkled at the inaugural Drinks Business Green Awards this week in the United Kingdom, highlighting again the environmental work that wine farms in the Cape perform. The international Drinks Business Green Awards are designed to highlight and reward leadership on environment, sustainability and climate change.

Paul Cluver, founder of Paul Cluver Wines, won the Lifetime Achievement Award for his ongoing visionary approach to conservation and exemplary environmental credentials.

Inge Kotzé of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative was awarded the Personality Award, and Backsberg Estate walked away with the Sustainability Award.

Paul Cluver Wines and Stellar Organics were named runners-up in the Ethical Award category, giving South Africa a notable presence in four of the eight award results.

Commenting on the success, Su Birch, chief executive of Wines of South Africa, said: “This is a significant moment in the development of South Africa’s green credentials and we are delighted so many of our champions are being recognised for the substantial contributions they are making to the advancement of sustainable practice in the wine industry.

“South Africa is a leader in production integrity and is committed to working in harmony with the environment to ensure long-term sustainable and profitable growth.”