Showing a nose for climate change – thriving Drakensberg winery

Monday, 18 March, 2019
BizNews, Chris Bateman
If somebody told you a KwaZulu-Natal farmer was winning awards growing unique wines at altitude in the Drakensberg mountains with its tumultuous summer storms, hail, and drenching rain, you’d be tempted to label him quixotic at the very least.

However, choosing the correct grape varieties and planting cleverly has allowed Mauritz Koster to thrive, prompting farmers lower down at Lion’s River, a two-hour drive from his Cathedral Peak wine estate, to follow suit. He’s doing so well that he plans to expand the area under harvest in a partnership with local subsistence farmers. This has won him government financial backing for creating jobs. Many of his more traditional colleagues in the Western Cape are shedding jobs and livelihoods with climate change shutting down a quarter of them over the past 10 years. Perhaps it’s a question of when then going gets weird, the weird get going or – when the climate changes, change (geographic) climates. Read how Koster has ‘’tamed the dragon’’ in the Berg – it’s a story of self-belief, innovation and beating the odds.

South Africa’s wine industry is centred around Cape Town. But pioneers far to the northeast are forging a new frontier in unlikely surroundings as changing weather patterns test long-held conventions.

Cathedral Peak wine estate’s vines grow in the foothills of the Central Drakensberg, or “Dragon Mountains,” the towering range that forms a natural western boundary for KwaZulu-Natal province. Producing wine here at 1,100 metres (3,600 feet) means turning tradition on its head and nurturing grapes in steamy summer rainfall, rather than the Mediterranean climate and cool, wet winters of the much more celebrated Western Cape.

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