With the festive season upon us, if your family is anything like mine, there is a fair amount of wine to be had! But how can you really tell which wine producers are making an effort not to negatively impact our natural environment?
Next time you find yourself standing in a bottle store staring at the incredible selection of wines South Africa has to offer, take a moment to check whether your favourite wine has been produced in a sustainable manner.
You will notice that most South African wines have a seal on the lid from Sustainable Wine South Africa (SWSA). SWSA is the alliance between various role-players in the wine industry, which monitor the South African wine industry’s commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly production.
“By considering the consequences of how we grow and make our wine, and thinking ahead for the next generations, we’re not just making better wine – we’re also making wine better.” – SWSA
Then there is the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI) which was established in 2004 to promote awareness and participation in driving conservation-minded farming practices in our beautiful Cape, one of the world’s most biodiverse regions.
The BWI focuses on:
- Minimising the loss of threatened natural habitat in the Cape winelands;
- Increasing the total area set aside in protected areas; and
- Promoting changes in farming practices that enhance the suitability of vineyards for biodiversity and reduce the impact farming practices have on both the vineyards and the surrounding natural areas.
With the help of the WWF, and based on rigorous environmental criteria, BWI recognises leaders in the industry, in terms of good environmental practices, and these wine producers are known as Conservation Champions.
South Africa is also one of the biggest global producers of Fair Trade certified wines, with over 20 wines to choose from.
95% of wine farming in South Africa takes place in the unique habitat of the Cape winelands, which fall within the Cape Floral Kingdom (one of only 6 floral kingdoms in the world). The Cape Floral Kingdom is known as a biodiversity hotspot with over 9,500 species recorded in it – of which 70% are found nowhere else in the world! Despite this level of endemism and biodiversity, only 9% of the Cape Floral Kingdom is formally protected.
Farming practices in the region can have a very destructive impact on the area’s biodiversity if not conducted with care.
What you can do?
Make sure that the lid of your wine bottle at least bears the “Integrity and Sustainability” SWSA seal. This means that the grapes were cultivated locally in SA and in a sustainable manner.
There are many estates that are members of BWI, but you can take it a step further and look for the logo of a sugar bird sitting on a protea, which you will find on the label on the back of the bottle. This logo indicates that the wine producer is a BWI and WWF Conservation Champion. Conservation Champions have put at least 10% of their wine farm aside for conservation, and are leaders in terms of environmental best practice.
In the past decade, South African wine producers have set aside almost 144 000 ha as conservation land and have committed to restoring it back to its original, pristine condition. This makes the South African wine industry’s conservation footprint well in excess of its current vineyard footprint of 99 463 ha – that’s a green footprint if ever there was one.
If we are selective and support such Conservation Champions, this trend will likely continue.
Here are the 2016 certified Conservation Champions:
For more details on each estate go to www.wwf.org.za.
The WWF Conservation Champions who have won 2016 awards are:
- La Motte in Franschhoek: Best Farming Practice Overall & Leader in community development;
- Paul Cluver in the Elgin Valley: Leader in water conservation;
- Lourensford in Somerset West: Leader in energy (for the second year running); and
- Bartinney Private Cellar in Stellenbosch: Leader in eco-tourism.
You can also keep a look out for wines that are FAIRTRADE Certified.
The FAIRTRADE Mark is the most widely recognised and trusted ethical label in the world. When a product carries the FAIRTRADE Mark, it means that the whole supply chain is certified against the relevant FAIRTRADE Standards and is audited annually to ensure compliance – protecting the communities and environments associated with the production.
There are over 20 FAIRTRADE certified wine producers in South Africa, so keep a look out for the logo on wine bottles. You can find details of all the FAIRTRADE wine producers here.
Similarly, after some bad international publicity, in 2012 the South African wine industry launched a new seal, which will guarantee that the wine has been produced in line with fair labour practices, outlined and audited by the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association (WIETA).
If you have a soft spot for Wild Dogs, you can also keep a look out for the range of Painted Wolf Wines which give a percentage of profits to Wild Dog conservation initiatives.
Similarly, Rhino Tears wines donate R15 from every bottle purchased, directly towards anti-poaching initiatives in our national parks. So keep an eye out in stores or buy online from.
In a follow-up blog we will be interviewing Stephanie Wiid, a wine maker at Fairview, a farm that priorities environmentally sustainable wine practices, to get more insight.
In the meantime, if you would like more detailed information on these wine sustainability initiatives go to: