South African wines go green
Conservationist Inge Kotze has played a vital role in seeing South African wines go green. As co-ordinator of the WWF Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI), she spent four years running the pioneering partnership between the South African wine industry and the conservation sector. The partnership aims to protect the Cape's Floral Kingdom, where 95 per cent of wine-growing takes place. In order to do so it encourages wine producers to farm sustainably and to take advantage of the Cape’s abundant diversity in their wines. Inge, who is now the Sustainable Agriculture Programme Manager for WWF-SA, chatted to us about the initiative and how it's transforming our vineyards. How unique is South Africa's wine industry when it comes to conservation? The South African wine industry has been internationally recognised as a world leader when it comes to environmental sustainability and conservation. In fact, many other Mediterranean wine regions such as California, Australia and Chile now look to us for guidance on developing partnerships similar to BWI, which see the conservation sector, research organisations and wine sector all working together. Is it difficult to convince local producers to join the initiative? In just under five years we have managed to bring close to one third of the wine industry estates on board, and interest continues to grow. Producers are keen to make an active contribution to conserving and preserving the very unique Cape Winelands. This is not surprising, as besides protecting their proud heritage, it also secures sustained growth of their very livelihood. What are some of the requirements of becoming a member? In order to become BWI members, producers need to follow our minimum guidelines, which include pursuing energy efficiency, saving water, controlling the growth of alien plants and restoring indigenous flora. We hope to reward successful members and encourage them to pursue a journey of continual improvement and an ambition to be environmental leaders. How do we, as consumers, know if we're drinking a BWI-compliant wine? Last year we created a 'Sustainability seal' that compliant producers can add to their bottles. It is a visually appealing bar code on the neck of the wine bottle that says, 'Sustainability and Integrity guaranteed'. All producers can easily obtain this standard by ensuring they are legally compliant and that they adhere to industry norms and standards. What are you drinking right now? I'm not regular drinker, but when I do indulge I'm a red wine drinker. My real treat is The Chocolate Block by Boekenhoutskloof, who are obviously a BWI member! To read more about the WWF's BWI Partnership, visit their website at wwf.org.za/bwi.