What is BWI wine? by Steuart Pennington

Uploaded by Atka
13 Feb, '14
Posted under Blog

Or as Benjamin Franklin asked, “Is wine a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy?”

I recently toured the wine lands of the Western Cape to learn about sustainable wine growing practices.

  • Did you know that there are some 3 440 wine farms in the Western Cape, and that 460 have cellars and wine-making facilities?
  • Did you know that 95% of our wine is produced in the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of six plant kingdoms in the world?
  • Did you know this kingdom is the smallest and richest with 70% of the plants found here and nowhere else on earth?
  • Do you know of the initiative pioneered by the World Wild Life Fund and the wine industry called “The Biodiversity Wine Initiative” (BWI)?
  • Did you know that in the industry 240 000 hectares are owned by the producer-farmers, 100 000 of which are under vine and 140 000 of which are under conservation?

I didn’t.

Today South African wines lead the world in production integrity, environmental sustainability and conservation.

This is a good story!

Producer farmers who belong to the BWI have to meet strict criteria set out by the WWF. A certain percentage of the farm has to be set aside for conservation purposes and the restoration of fynbos.

Members are required to subscribe to the three pillars of social, ecological and environmental best practice via the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association (WIETA).

There are two categories of membership – “Champions” – who have set aside 10% or more of their farm for conservation and score 70% on the WEITA scorecard – and “Members” – who have set aside 6% and score 60%. There are 298 members, 30 of which are “Champions”.

We often read of the ‘dop’ system and the unpredictable seasonal nature of labour engagement. We seldom read of these practices changing.

Are they?

Hosted by Nedbank and the Green Wine Awards filed trip we visited two farms to find out.

The first was Bartinney, owned by Michael and Rose Jordaan.

This farm in the Banhoek area was the family farm where Michael grew up. When the Jordaan’s bought the farm back eight years ago it was anything but an example of sustainable farming!

Over the past eight years much as been done: alien trees have been removed (which incidentally resulted in the farm spring flowing again and the dam filling up). 6 800 indigenous trees have been planted to reduce their carbon footprint, “so that we are carbon-neutral”. Solar power has been installed (50% Eskom reduction) and wetlands have been established to filter water used in wine-making (it takes 4 litres of water to make 1 litre of wine). The Banhoek Conservancy, in co-operation with 23 neighbouring farms has been established. Tourism outreach and mountain biking opportunities have been introduced. Herbicides have been replaced by biological invasive control and staff facilities have been improved and employment contracts made more secure.

“I wouldn’t exactly describe myself as an eco-bully,” says Rose Jordaan, “but as humans we are good at destroying balance – and it quickly becomes very hard to restore it”.

“When we arrived here the alien invaders had destroyed much of the fynbos, our water had dried up and the naturally occurring fauna and flora had disappeared. Eight years later our spring runs all year round, we have 11 hectares out of 30 under fynbos and indigenous plants, we have a mountain bike trail, we employ 24 permanent staff and no seasonal workers. Besides grape growing, vine maintenance and wine production our staff grow their own vegetables on the farm, assist with alien plant control, help with our tourism activities and manage our nursery. And pleasingly, the leopards, honey badgers, porcupines, baboons, birds and hard-working insects have all returned”, Rose tells.

Maybe not an eco-bully, but certainly a mover and shaker – and a fine producing farmer.

 

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