Sustainable Winemaking Is A Global Goal
June is a month jam-packed with environmental awareness initiatives as we celebrate World Oceans Day, World Rainforest Day and National Environment month – a time to focus on protecting our ecosystems and connecting with nature. In response to consumer demand, increased environmental awareness and a move towards sustainability, many winemakers are looking to the past in pursuit of a greener future for the industry.
The Cape Floral Kingdom is West Coast Way’s home. When you travel in the West Coast, you will see thousands of species of plants, including fynbos which is indigenous to the region and found nowhere else in the world. And when you consider that although the Cape Floral Kingdom occupies only a tiny fraction of land at the bottom of Africa, yet hosts almost 20% of all floras on the continent, one begins to grasp the true natural wealth of this unique region and why sustainable wine-making is so essential.
The Genesis Of Cape West Coast Wine
Groote Post Vineyards On The West Coast Way Tractor Route
While South Africa’s wine industry is well established and has been in existence for hundreds of years – Cape West Coast’s deep history of winemaking is rooted in Groote Post Vineyards. It was in 1706, that the historic Klawervallei farm, now part of Groote Post Vineyards, was first mentioned in the Dutch East India Company’s records, as an outpost and grazing farm. To commemorate this historic occasion, the crest on the Groote Post wine label contains the wording Anno 1706.
Groote Post was one of the driving forces in establishing the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve, which incorporates the Groote Post farm and stretches from the Milnerton lagoon to Langebaan. Groote Post is home to 2 175 hectares of conservation worthy natural vegetation, including the endangered Swartland granite renosterveld, Swartland shale renosterveld and Atlantis sand fynbos. Eco-tourism opportunities on the farm include wine tasting, Hilda’s Kitchen (a country restaurant named after local cook Hilda Gonda Duckitt), nature walks, game drives to view the farm’s many antelope, and excellent bird-watching.
Sipping Wine 7000 B.C.
Winemaking dates back to 7000 B.C. and has evolved more in the last 30 years than it did in the first 9000. Wine farms have become increasingly reliant on mechanisation – tractors to prepare the soil, machines to set the poles, plant the vines, lay the plastic, lay the irrigation pipes, prune the vines, and even harvest the grapes – unfortunately, all of these activities produce CO2. In recent decades wineries have also increasingly come to rely on chemicals and pesticides to cultivate their vines.
A drive for greener processes and a mounting demand for sustainability has led West Coast winemakers to look for cleaner strategies and technologies (both ancient and modern) to shrink their environmental footprint:
Horse-drawn ploughs, sail boats and ocean-cooled cellars
Some in the business are taking their cues from history and are reaching back to pre-industrial practices.
For example, many wine farms all over the world are adopting environmentally friendly pest-control methods that were in use hundreds of years ago – such as using ducks in the vineyards to eradicate snails, worms, slugs etc. Farmers are reintroducing wildlife corridors, and adopting bio-control methods to reduce their reliance on herbicides and pesticides.
Cloof Wine Estate On The West Coast Way Culture Route
An exceptional example of this is Darling in the Cape West Coast’s Cloof Wine Estate.
Awarded as a WWF Conservation Champion, they have been acknowledged as an environmental leader in the industry for their commitment to conservation, responsible production practices, integrated environmental management systems, and spearheading innovations in water, energy efficiency and climate adaptation.
This partnership with the WWF is part of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI), which sees the South African wine industry and the conservation sector working together to promote awareness and drive participation in conservation-focused farming practices.
Both Cloof Wine Estate and neighbouring Burgherspost set aside roughly two-thirds of the farm or 1150 Ha for the conservation of the critically endangered Cape Lowlands Fynbos. The reserve is registered with Cape Nature as a voluntary conservation site as part of the Cape Nature Stewardship program. The reserve is actively managed to ensure that the rich and highly threatened biodiversity remains ecologically functional and protected for future generations to enjoy.
Some extreme adaptations have seen wineries overseas starting to use draught horses to plough the land. One wine estate is bottling their wine in kiln-fired clay containers and using human cycling power to pump the grape juice. A French company has returned to wind-powered sailing and ships nearly 30,000 bottles of wine a year around Europe on old cargo sail-boats and have created a label that allows buyers to track the bottle’s voyage and CO2 savings.
The modern above-ground temperature-controlled production cellars and wine warehouses require energy to run, whereas in days gone by wine cellars were underground – using the natural coolness to keep the wine at optimal temperatures. Some wineries are now reverting to this practice and building below ground cellars at great cost.
Fryer’s Cove In Doringbaai On The West Coast Way Wild Route
Fryer’s Cove at Doringbaai offers an exceptional example harnessing the power of the natural elements by using ocean water to cool their wine tanks during fermentation and using the natural salty sea spray resulting in fewer pesticides. The result is reduction in energy usage and a much lower carbon footprint.
Wines To Buy Now To Support West Coast Winemakers
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