3 South African wine farms embracing sustainability and education

Weltevrede Wine Estate

By Renate Engelbrecht

Wednesday, Nov 01

Wine farms like Spier and Avondale serve as great examples of sustainable farming practices and while I know that they, and most other wine farms, are adamant to up their game when it comes to conserving, preserving and educating, these three recently stood out for me:

Backsberg Family Wines

Backsberg was the first South African wine farm to have been certified carbon-neutral back in 2006. With a rich heritage spanning over a century, they have a philosophy of providing world-class wines while prioritising its environment.

Backsberg Family Wines

They’ve also recently announced that all their wines from the 2022 vintage onwards have undergone a rigorous verification process through internationally recognised third parties. This has awarded them the PAS 2060:2014 specification for carbon neutrality – yet another first for the South African wine industry.

The certification was accredited to this fifth-generation wine farm’s whole value chain – from viticulture, winemaking, bottling, warehousing and distribution to the furthest possible customer.

Backsberg carbon neutral chardonnay 2022

It’s clear that while cherishing and preserving their heritage, Backsberg also forges ahead with forward-thinking, holistic practices. This includes things like their biomass boiler and heat exchange chiller for cooling in the previous cellar. It also includes the past prickly pear biomass programme, supporting ‘credible carbon’ on projects like the Kuyasa Project. And, their Bamboo Project which is underway at the Mooiplaas farm in the Eastern Cape, as well as collabs with Stellenbosch University in a bee pollination initiative, local tree planting schemes and more.

Vergelegen Wine Estate

At Vergelegen, it’s not only about grape harvesting, but also about sun harvesting lately. The Somerset West wine farm is known for its various sustainability efforts and recently marked yet another environmental milestone: Going off the grid. Yup, Vergelegen has installed a solar power plant that has taken it completely off the grid. This involved installing six solar tables consisting of 500 panels that cover a whopping 1400m². They also installed three inverters and a one-megawatt battery which will allow the cellar to still run on the battery during harvesting even when there is no sun.

Vergelegen wine farms sustainability

The winery’s environmental project manager, Eben Olderwagen says while the difference in carbon emissions will be determined over time, “the entire electricity bill for the cellar will be saved as the cellar will run 100% off the solar plant. There will also be the diesel cost saving and no emissions from the generator during loadshedding. The electricity not used by the cellar will be pushed into the grid and be credited on the rest of the site’s account, resulting in money saving on electricity bills for the entire estate.”

Olderwagen believes that sustainability and winemaking go hand-in-hand. “Installing solar panels at our winery is not just a practical decision, it’s a statement of our commitment to the environment and to producing exceptional wines. It’s a win-win for our winery and the planet.”

Vergelegen Wine Farm Sustainability solar

Vergelegen recently also received the Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices Award in the Best of Wine Tourism Awards (BOWTA). The 323-year-old estate’s environmental initiatives are founded on a 14-year, privately funded alien vegetation clearing project, which was completed five years ago. This resulted in the 1900 hectares being declared a nature reserve, with the same protection status as the Kruger National Park. They’ve become a leader and an example when it comes to environmental restoration and management.

Tip: Visit Vergelegen Nature Reserve to learn more about their environmental heritage. You can go on a guided tour in a game vehicle, view the incredible fynbos, indigenous Nguni cattle, Bontebok, Eland and the rare Rau Quagga – a sub-species of Zebra. The environmental tour costs R400 per person and departs from the tasting room at 10:00. It takes about one and a half hours. Bookings can be made on 021 847 2122 or email customerservices@vergelegen.co.za.

READ: A brand-new Conservatory Restaurant for Cellars-Hohenort

Weltevrede Wine Estate

Weltevrede Wine Estate is a beacon of innovative wine tourism. Here, so many things are intertwined – art, culture, a history of incredible terroir and of course, impeccably fine wines. This wine farm, which forms part of the Robertson Wine Valley, was recently awarded the Best Of Wine Tourism Award, as well as the People’s Choice Award at the Best Of Wine Tourism Awards. They offer a unique combination of tradition and innovation, which makes the estate a must-visit destination for anyone who appreciates wine.

Weltevrede wine farm

Dating back to 1912, this family-run vineyard has a vast portfolio, with a special focus on Chardonnay and Cap Classique. In fact, their winemaker, Philip Jonker, recently registered a brand-new wine style called Calcrete and together with five other wine farms from the Robertson Wine Valley, they are making waves in the wine industry with a range of beautiful Chardonnays that go by the name of the soil they come from: Limestone and mineral-rich Calcrete soil. More about this stunning new wine style soon, but one thing is certain: The climate and soil changes that took place over centuries are one of the main contributors to this intriguing new style of wine.

Weltevrede

Weltevrede Wine Estate has a special way of preserving the history of wine, including experiences where one can learn more about the Robertson Wine Valley’s terroir. They offer a world-class wine tasting experience which is not only inspiring, but also educational. Be captivated by the story of Chardonnay with a two-hour underground tour or complete your very own bottle of Cap Classique here.

Philip Jonker Cap Classique Weltevrede Wine Estate

Sustainability and education are both imperative in the wine industry. Winemakers have been confronting environmental challenges like shifting climatic patterns and resource limitations head on and with proactive approaches. In these attempts of addressing sustainability issues, they are also safeguarding the future of wine making.

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