Doing it for sustainability

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not". - Dr Seuss
In writing this month's article I found myself thinking of the newly released Dr. Seuss film The Lorax that centres on mankind's insensitivity towards nature and our destructive drive to ruin our environment. That is why this month we have chosen to highlight four wine producers that are doing it for sustainability.

Our featured wineries this month care a lot and are striving to make the world a better place, one bottle of wine at a time. This month we shine the spotlight on Villiera, Zevenwacht, La Motte and Boschendal. Each of these farms do a multitude of great things that are green driven and inspired but I've decided to focus on four key points - sustainability, biodiversity, organic and social responsibility.

Sustainability: Villiera

Villiera is driven to farming in a sustainable manner that includes not spraying for insecticides (for the last 10 years) and using natural predators such as Peking ducks (Villiera has roughly 1000) to control pests such as snails and insects. Villiera has also (in conjunction with two of their neighbours - The Cape Garden Centre and Klawervlei Estate) set aside 220ha of land for use as a wildlife sanctuary. The area includes marsh areas and 12 dams that have attracted quite an array of birds. Villiera also boasts an impressive array of animals on the farms from Steenbuck, Guinea Fowl, Porcupines, Caracals and two species of Mongoose (Grey and Water) and Foxes (Cape and Bat-Eared) to a variety of birds that have set up home in one of the 35 owl boxes.

In addition to the naturally occurring animals, Villiera has also set out to introduce mammals into their Wildlife Sanctuary. The mammals include Springbuck, Red Hartebeest, Bontebok, Eland, Gemsbok, Bush Pig, Grysbok, Zebra and the common Duiker. Last year Villiera removed all the buildings in their Wildlife Sanctuary from the Eskom grid and changed their power supply to be powered by the sun, gas and hydroelectric power. Villiera also purchased their first fully electric vehicle in 2011 and have plans to add another in the future.

Villiera is Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) accredited and is doing a number of other things on the farm to promote sustainability and was chosen as the runner-up in the Escom Eta Awards 2011 Energy Champion: Industry last year. To learn more about what Villiera is doing to promote sustainability please visit their website at You can also have a look at Sheryl's video interview with Simon Grier here.

The wine that Villiera feels embodies their commitment to sustainability and nature is the Villiera Down to Earth Red 2010. The Down to Earth Red was created by the Grier family to symbolise the unique character that is derived from the soil in which vines grow. The Down to Earth Red has been expertly blended over a few days to ensure that the wine tastes of the earth in which it grows. The Down to Earth Red is a blend of 42% Shiraz and 58% Touriga Nacional.

Biodiversity: Zevenwacht

Environmental management is a high priority for Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI) member Zevenwacht. Zevenwacht became a BWI member in 2009 has since then strived to manage and conserve the rare and endangered fauna and flora found on the estate. Currently 15% of Zevenwacht is a protected conservation area with 80ha of Renosterveld forming part of the Bottelary Hills Renosterveld Conservancy (BHRC). The 80 hectares of Zevenwacht Renosterveld boasts a diversity of approximately 150 to 200 species of flora and is home to a host of small animals and bird life.

It is a shocking fact to know that roughly 70% of Renosterveld that still exists is found on private land. The Renosterveld fauna forms part of the internationally known Cape Floral Kingdom and while not as well known as Fynbos, it is sometimes mistaken for it. Renosterveld grows on nutrient rich soils and have spectacular flowers, some of which only flower for short periods during the year.

Zevenwacht has numerous walking and hiking trails on the farm that are extremely educational and help one understand that our indigenous fauna and flora are in desperate need of protection. To learn more about the trails on Zevenwacht and their continued efforts to protect our environment, please visit their website at Also check out Sheryl's interview with Zevenwacht's John Johnson here.

Zevenwacht chose the Zevenwacht Zevenrood 2009 red blend as the wine that embodies their commitment to biodiversity and the environment. This lifestyle blend's new label design not only showcases the different flavour characteristics found in the wine but also highlights the farm's commitment to preserving rare and endangered fauna and flora. Some of the images found on the label (in between those defining the wine's flavours) include the Aristea Lugens flower, a Ribbok and a sugarbird (also found on the BWI logo).

Organic: La Motte

La Motte has been farming organically since 2007 when they were awarded BWI Champion status and have made organic farming a part of their winemaking philosophy. In 2009 La Motte was awarded with NOP organic certification by LANCON, Germany as well as an EU organic certification by SGS, France. These certifications were an important step in La Motte's commitment to the environment. La Motte applies the SGS- and LANCON- certified Organic Production methods on La Motte as well as their sister farm Nabot in the Walker Bay region.

Everything on La Motte is farmed organically by eliminating the use of chemicals and insecticides to promote a culture of sustainable farming. La Motte winemaker Edmund Terblanche explained the difference between Organic - and Organically grown wine as essentially being the same. The only reason why La Motte has decided not to get organic certification is due to the fact that a small percentage of grapes that are sourced for the production of La Motte wines are not organic. Have a look at Sheryl's video interview with Edmund here.

In 2010 La Motte decided to introduce organic cultivation in their farm garden, where herbs and vegetables are sourced for use in their Pierneef a La Motte Restaurant. Since 2008 La Motte has been registered as a voluntary Nature Conservation site after they committed 10% of their farming operations to conservation. Visit La Motte's website for more information.

The La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc (Organically Grown) 2011 best embodies their commitment to an organic mindset and the grapes used in production for this wine come from their Nabot farm. The La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc (Organically Grown) has been produced since 2005 and was certified by SGS and LANCON in that year.

Social Responsibility: Boschendal

Boschendal, along with Brampton, Douglas Green, Bellingham and Franschhoek Cellars make up South Africa's largest independent wine and spirit producer and wholesaler (of top brands) DGB(Pty)Ltd. DGB was recently awarded the prestigious Drinks Business Ethical Award in London for their rural carbon offset program.

The rural carbon offset program was established in East London and is known as the Mooiplaas Bamboo plantation. The 10ha bamboo plantation has provided DGB with an enormous boost towards advancing their corporate social and environmental roles.

DGB chose to invest in bamboo due to its carbon offset potential and other great advantages such as its versatile commercial value and multitude of uses. Bamboo is also a great potential packaging material and might be considered in future as the basis for DGB's progressive eco-intelligent packaging. Click here to see Sheryl's interview with Boschendal Cellar master JC Bekker where he tells us more about the project.

Boschendal chose their multi award winning top quality Method Cap Classic wine, the Boschendal Grande Cuvee Brut 2007 as the wine equivalent for their social responsibility. This wine has walked away with top honours the Amorim Cork Cap Classique Challenge, the International Wine Challenge and the Veritas awards and is made up of a blend of 54% Chardonnay and 46% Pinot Noir. For more information on Boschendal please visit their website at

Be sure to check out this month's video collection where WINE.CO.ZA's Sheryl Kruger interviews representatives from each wine farm.
Edmund Terblanche

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