Neethlingshof going for conservation champion

Conservation and sustainability are two interlinked themes that run very strongly through the Cape Legends portfolio of estates and wineries.
No less than seven are members of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative - Alto, the most recent, then Lomond, Plaisir de Merle, Jacobsdal, Theuniskraal, Neethlingshof and Uitkyk, which has the extra distinction of being a BWI Champion. However, it may not be the only one for much longer, now that Neethlingshof has also applied for Championship status.

Neethlingshof has been implementing an extensive biodiversity and conservation programme for several years now. Developed by master viticulturist Prof Eben Archer who was commissioned to re-plan and replant all the vineyards on the farm, the programme has now largely fallen to winemaker De Wet Viljoen to oversee and execute.

To achieve a better balance between planted areas and natural veld, 116 ha or 42% of the farm has been set aside for conservation. In reconfiguring the lay-out of the farm Prof Archer allowed for islands of indigenous vegetation between the new vineyard blocks connected by corridors.

What no one foresaw was that these interconnected “islands” would create an explosion in the number of mice foraging on the root systems of the vines. To resolve the situation, natural predators in the form of owls were introduced. Vantage posts were erected in all the vineyards on which owls could perch while hunting at night. Given the abundance of food, owls soon established themselves in numbers in densely wooded areas on the farm.

As a result of the environmentally friendly farming practices, the number of beneficial insects also started to multiply. To control their numbers, guinea fowl, for which they are a natural food source, were introduced. Their presence in turn attracted caracal from the hills of the adjoining conservancy. First spotted in 2008, they have moved into undisturbed wooded areas on the farm where they found safe breeding areas.

In the same year as the areas of indigenous vegetation were established, a programme to clear invasive alien trees was introduced. To date 15 hectares have been returned to natural veld.

WineLand

Neethlingshof vineyards

more news