Partner content: Cellar-brating Conservation Champions and women in wine

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Wine tastings are back and cellar doors have been opened – there’s much to be celebrated in South Africa! With Women’s Month having just passed, we wanted to celebrate the women in wine and the stories behind brands that are loved by so many.

A perfect opportunity to celebrate Mother Nature is through the lens of WWF Conservation Champion wine farms, which are acknowledged as environmental leaders for their commitments to conservation while not compromising on producing world-class wine. Wine and bubbly produced at these stellar locations not only taste great but are also created with nature in mind.

Here, female winemakers share a few inspirations that pop the cork on some of the Conservation Champion wine farms.


This Conservation Champion is located in the Breedekloof Valley in an area that protects the Papenkuils Wetland – home to five IUCN red-listed plant species. Behind the magic of Merwida is its female winemaker, Lieza van der Merwe, who made the #WL30under30 edition of Wineland Media magazine, in which she discusses family, tradition and all things Breedekloof. Lieza recommends chenin blanc as one of South Africa’s best white wine varieties.

Hidden Valley Wines

Hidden Valley Wines are farmed in accordance with ecologically sensitive farming practices, including recycling, compost, wormeries and invasive plant clearing. This makes them a Conservation Champion worth recognising. During Women’s Month, Hidden Valley Wines and the Conservation Champions Programme celebrated winemaker Annalie van Dyk, who is pictured below getting out her power tools to mix bentonite, a fining agent, for the Hidden Treasure 2020.


Ever heard of carbon-neutral wines? Backsberg was the first South African wine farm to claim this accolade as they champion tree planting, experiment with biochar and protect the biodiverse fynbos region where they are situated. This Conservation Champion has a lot going, including a phenomenal female winemaker, Alicia Rechner, who has made over 20 wines, including specially created kosher wines!

Graham Beck

This Conservation Champion’s ethos has been an environmentally responsible approach to farming and wine production, initiating solar panel installations on their cellar and recycling water from their farm and cellar. Behind the scenes at Graham Beck, some very hard-working women make sure that their most delightful and perfectly unique Cap Classiques make their way to happy customers all around the world. The powerhouse trio is made up of Lisa Keulder (marketing manager), Lindi van Antwerpen (quality manager) and Lizelda van de Merwe (logistics manager) – together they create the magic that gets those delicious bubbles where they need to be. These three ladies toast in style with a glass of Graham Beck pinot noir rosé. Alive with sumptuous strawberry notes and a rich creamy complexity on the palate, this bubbly is said to add an element of effortless elegance no matter the celebration.


Spier is a Conservation Champion popular for their efforts to counter the encroachment of vines and crops on precious natural habitats and reducing water and energy usage. Their environmentally friendly practices have also attracted a wealth of bird and animal life back into the area.

Tania Kleintjes, Spier’s organic winemaker, boasts 13 years in the wine world. Despite having a master’s degree in winemaking under her belt, Tania admits that she is constantly learning. She aims to make authentic wines that express terroir. This means having a light touch in the cellar – Tania doesn’t believe in obsessively polishing or tinkering.

A critical cog in the winemaking process, WAS Laboratory owner Merecia Smith finds satisfaction in knowing that her analysis is helping to make good wine even better. Spier celebrates women and shines a light on this former employee, as she established the first black-owned wine analysis laboratory in the country. Conservation Champion Spier is proud to have helped start and grow Merecia’s business as part of their enterprise development projects.

Spier wine analyst


Elgin Vinters

Keeping it in the family and working magic in the cellar of Elgin Vinters, the mother-daughter duo Marinda Kruger-Claassen and Mimi bring passion and dedication to all that they do to create award-winning wines. With a love of growing and building things, it was the combination of science and creativity of wine-making that ignited Marinda to pursue it. Now as the newest shareholder, Marinda juggles the business manager and winemaker roles for Elgin Vinters with the support of “a tight-knit team, working together and all passionate about what they do”. Marinda believes this combination of the unique climate and personal commitment is what is reflected in the character to be found in every glass of Elgin Vintners wine.

With beautiful smiles on their faces, this team is a living testament of their motto to have fun while getting the work done.

Marinda and Mimi Elgin

The excitement to celebrate and acknowledge women in wine cannot go without the collective joy following the opening of wine farms and wine sales. From wine tastings to cheese, coffee, deli specialities and restaurant kitchens cooking up a storm, never has there been a better time to appreciate these simple yet luxurious pleasures. It’s time to rejoice and live local, support WWF Conservation Champion farms, tell the stories of women winemakers at your dinner table, acquaint yourself with online ordering services, delve into deliveries and, most of all, stay safe when visiting your favourite wine farms.

Follow the sugarbird here for more on the WWF Conservation Champions.

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