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South Africa: Leading the wine world in production integrity

June 27, 2023

It’s no secret that South Africa’s winelands have a unique advantage with its diverse terroir, allowing for the cultivation of a wide range of grape varieties. This diversity fosters experimentation and innovation in winemaking techniques, resulting in exceptional quality wines. But it’s their emergence as global leaders in sustainability that has begun to set South Africa apart from the rest.

For this winemaking industry, it’s not just about minimizing their impact on the environment when it comes to farming their lands and prioritizing organic and biodynamic farming practices – reducing chemical use and promoting biodiversity. The industry places great emphasis on fair labour practices, ensuring workers’ rights and equitable wages. Through its commitment to environmental stewardship, quality, and social responsibility, South Africa is earning its global reputation in spades.

Biodiversity

In the South African winelands, you’ll find some of the oldest viticultural soils in the world, traceable back to the first super continent some one million years ago. The constant interplay between these ancient soils, soaring mountains, valley slopes and coastal breezes results in a natural environment exceptional in its biodiversity.

Read Also: Now is the time to discover the wines of South Africa

The Cape’s winegrowing regions are influenced by the Atlantic and Indian oceans which create beneficial maritime conditions like regular coastal fog and cooling sea breezes. Diversity of soils is matched by diversity of climate and geography, creating a treasure trove of winemaking possibilities. The options really are endless. This is already demonstrated in the flavour profiles which make a sauvignon blanc from Elim so different to one from Elgin – or a shiraz from Paarl so different to one from Stellenbosch.

Preserving this unique natural heritage is also in the nature of the South African wine producers, many of whom have farmed their land for generations. They are keen to identify what is unique, rare and special on their farms, find ways to preserve their indigenous vegetation and minimize the further loss of their threatened natural habitat.

The South African wine industry proactively supports conservation. Biodiversity guidelines have now been written into the guidelines for the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW), the industry’s handbook for sustainable farming. A compulsory system introduced in 1998, the IPW focuses on every stage in the production process, from environmental impact studies and the correct preparation of soil to the use of recyclable packaging. Researchers are also exploring exciting new options, such as using indigenous plants as cover crops in vineyards.

A new seal of integrity and sustainability

Sustainable Wine South Africa (SWSA) is the alliance between the Wine and Spirit Board (WSB), the IPW scheme, the WWF-SA Conservation Champion programme and Wines of South Africa (WOSA). Together these organizations are driving the South African wine industry’s commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly production. The new Wine and Spirit Board seal guarantees that the wines have been sustainably produced according to their new guidelines and consumers are able to verify this online by entering the unique seal numbers on the bottle.

South Africa

Since 1974, the country’s Wine of Origin scheme guarantees the information on the label that states where the grapes came from, the vintage year and the variety or varieties. South Africa introduced guidelines on sustainability as early as 1998 and since then, over 95 percent of growers have stuck to the guidelines which are constantly improved.

From the 2010 vintage, South African wines have had a new official seal. This seal means that the Wine and Spirit Board, appointed by the Department of Agriculture, certifies that:

  • The vintage, variety and origin that are shown on the label are correct.
  • The wine has been produced sustainably, in an earth-friendly manner.
  • The wine can be traced all the way from the vine to the bottle.
  • It was bottled in South Africa – so it is 100% South African!

– Written in partnership with Wines of South Africa

 

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