WWF-SA (World Wide Fund for Nature) Conservation Champions are at the forefront of championing our natural heritage, providing world-class wines and making a difference in the process. We ask you to raise a glass and toast to South Africa’s natural heritage!
The sustainable wine landscape of heritage, wine, fynbos and leadership
What do Graham Beck bubbly and Nelson Mandela have in common? Well, this was the drink of choice at the iconic presidential inauguration. A rich day in our history of South Africa and a proud heritage moment at that. As a WWF Conservation Champion, Graham Beck has always placed the planet and its people first. This year marks a 30-year celebration of extraordinary vintages of Graham Beck Cap Classique and we certainly raise a glass not only to their pursuit of the perfect bubbly, but also to their passionate commitment of community upliftment, as well as care and conservation of the environment.
Nature is key to optimum wine production. The popular Rhine Riesling can only be made in years when nature provides conditions that are ideal for its production. Noble late harvest wine requires the natural occurrence of a vineyard fungus, Botrytis cinereal, that removes water from grapes and leads to the concentration of sugars and flavours. This desirable “noble rot” relies on wet and humid conditions, which are unlikely during a drought.
The heritage of this wine, combined with this vagary of nature, makes the arrival of Delheim’s infamous Rhine Riesling always eagerly awaited. This vintage, together with their unique Spatzendreck, are wines that are widely regarded as one of South Africa’s favourite dessert wines.
According to Delheim’s winemaker, Roelof Lotriet, important contributors to the successful 2018 harvest being realised was the occurrence of sufficient water at necessary periods during fruit development, as well as leaf cover that trapped moisture and encouraged the ideal micro-climate. This is just one notable example of how balance in nature is critical for sustainable agriculture, which delivers wine products that are enjoyed by many South Africans and is so much part of our heritage.
Overlooking False bay, Waterkloof wines boasts a cultural and natural heritage species known as kooigoed or imphepho, which is an indigenous medicinal plant that grows on the farm. This is often mixed with sandalwood and is used in relaxation and training of their horses. Honey badgers are one of the many species of biodiversity found in abundance in the indigenous vegetation on Waterkloof, which covers almost 50% of the farm – the circle of life celebrated, protected and nurtured.
Natural heritage can be enjoyed in all its splendour at La Motte in the Franschhoek region, where special plants get their own GPS coordinates! The fan leave aloe, or Aloe plicatilis, is regarded as one of South Africa’s botanical treasures due to its beauty and limited range, which is why this Conservation Champion is carefully guarding these treasured species and nurturing their populations. Usually growing individually and sporadically in the mountains of the Western Cape, these aloes at La Motte are found in dense concentrations – approximately 90 have been marked across the mountains of the farm.
Also happy on the La Motte’s mountain slopes are the beautiful Blushing Brides (Serruria floridia) of the Protea family. They were once considered to be extinct but have been re-established on the cool sandstone cliffs. Late winter to early spring is the best time to see these two botanical beauties in their full glory.
Moving over the mountains of the Helderberg basin, Vergelegen Wine Estate has been the talk of the town recently with its bontebok relocation programme. Today’s global bontebok population is approximately 1 950, but in the early 1800s there were only 17 left due to overhunting and extensive killing as pests. Today, Vergelegen Wine Estate is home to these splendid bontebok – exquisite chocolate-brown antelope with white underbellies and a white stripe from the forehead to the tip of their noses – that share their protected territory with a herd of indigenous Nguni cattle.
Part of a long-term research project, the estate is working closely with its neighbouring Helderberg Nature Reserve to expand the population of these threatened species and better understand the benefits of hooved animals in the biodiversity restoration of indigenous veld.
With a country as abundantly enhanced by such a diverse and precious cultural heritage, combined with its treasure trove of natural wonders and diverse people, it is no wonder that South Africa has become a pioneer in terms of environmental stewardship and social responsibility.
WWF-SA Conservation Champions are a testament to the strong partnerships that have been forged between WWF-SA and the 45 wine farms doing their bit for nature and for you. Whether it’s sipping on a glass of wine with nature in mind or enjoying the views and many ecotourism activities at these locations, there’s something for everyone – a truly South African experience! Follow the sugarbird and be part of the journey!