Posted on 07 December 2011 by davidbiggs
While the Greenies attending the COP17 gab-fest in Durban, some of the wine farmers in the Cape have quietly been going about actually doing something about saving the planet instead of just talking about it.
At Neethlingshof near Stellenbosch, for example, they’ve been practicing a responsible bio-diversity programme for several years.
It was developed by viticulturist Dr Eben Archer, who was asked to draw up an extensive plan for the whole farm. As a result, almost half the farms (42%) has been set aside as natural veld. These natural areas are situated between new vineyard blocks and connected by natural corridors.
The result has been astonishing. Thousands of mice moved into the “wild” areas and started foraging on the root systems of the vines. This would not have been good, apart from the fact that they, in turn, attracted owls. Special perching poles have been set up for them in the vineyards.
The vale areas have also attracted swarms of beneficial insects, and these have attracted guinea fowl in great numbers. The guinea fowl have brought in predators, like caracal (rooikats), which now live in the wooded areas and are breeding there.
So far 116 hectares have been returned to natural veld and nature is once again in perfect balance. Nature and Man, it seems, can live in harmony together.
Posted on 31 August 2010 by davidbiggs
Can wine drinkers save the planet?
Some wine producers certainly seem to believe this is so.
The pamphlet that came with my order of Obikwa wines proclaimed: “Save the Planet. Drink Obikwa.”
And the way the Obikwa people plan to save the planet is by reducing the glass content of their bottles. The new Obikwa bottle weighs 100g less than a standard wine bottle. This, the producers claim, means a saving in packaging materials and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. For every 1000 bottles of Obikwa we drink, we save 109kg of carbon dioxide emissions.
At Backsberg they’ve taken a different route toward planet saving, by putting their “Tread Lightly” range of wines in lightweight PET plastic bottles.
Backsberg takes its planet saving very seriously and became the first South African wine farm to be declared “carbon neutral”.
This means they reduce carbon emissions by the same amount they produce.
Backsberg’s PET bottles weigh a whole lot less than even the Obikwa bottle and come in at a mere 50g each.
And they bounce if you drop them.
They say the reduced diameter of the bottle allows up to 36% more wine to be packed into the same space as used for conventional bottles.
All these reductions in weight and volume mean that less energy is required to transport the wine from place to place.
It’s good to see that our wine companies are making an effort to be more planet-friendly, but the final impact on the planet rests with us consumers.
There’s not much point in saving a gram or two of carbon dioxide emission if we drive our big 4×4 urban tractor all the way to Backsberg from Sea Point in order to collect a case of Tread Lightly Sauvignon Blanc, is there?
I suppose part of the answer is to buy your wines as close to home as possible. Even if your local wine shop sells Obikwa or Tread Lightly at 50cents a bottle more than the hypermarket five km away, you’ll be helping by making the shorter journey and paying the few cents extra.
Your planet will thank you for it.
I often bang on about the joys of drinking dry rosé wines in our South Africa climate. They seem to me to provide the perfect accompaniment to casual, but elegant outdoor living.
The latest of these to come my way was the Circumstance Cape Coral 2010, produced by Waterkloof, near Somerset West.
The Cape Coral is made from Mourvedre grapes and has the palest pink colour imaginable. It has delightfully zesty red-berry flavours and a fresh, dry finish, making it the perfect accompaniment to summer meals of smoked salmon, gypsy ham or a traditional Cape pickled fish.
I find the idea of naming a wine range “Circumstance” rather charming. Estate owner Paul Boutinot explained to me that the wines would probably differ from vintage to vintage, but each was made to the very highest standards the circumstances of the season would allow.
As far as reducing their own carbon emissions is concerned, Waterkloof has bought a team of elegant Percheron horses to work the vineyards, rather than rely solely on emission-producing tractors.
Apart from anything else, they certainly do look grand as they move sedately among the vine rows.
Incidentally, the farm’s restaurant and tasting facilities at the top of a steep mountain slope provide one of the most spectacular views of False Bay possible. It’s worth a visit for that alone. To get there, drive through the Sir Lowry’ Pass Village from Somerset West and watch for the turn-off.
Photo: Courtesy of Backsberg Estate Cellar