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Join the WWF Conservation Champion wine farms in celebrating International Biodiversity Day

25 May 2021  -  Shelly Fuller

Picture a weekend sipping on some wine, warmed by the fire, tucking into a farm fresh meal and delighting in the breath-taking views offered by the Cape winelands. But this is no ordinary experience, it is one that is truly immersive in nature, and supportive of nature.

Your choice of wine farm could be a WWF Conservation Champion, an environmental leader committed to regenerative farming practices, conserving natural systems and biodiversity on their land. Whether it’s wildlife, or tantalising eats that tickle your fancy, there are many ways to connect and be inspired, through your love for wine and nature!

The term biodiversity means the variety of species and here in the Cape Winelands, we are blessed with an abundance of biodiversity. The Cape Floral Kingdom is home to some 9,000 plant species, 70% of which occur nowhere else on earth! These habitats are worth saving because they provide the necessary “services” that farming needs in order to feed us all: healthy soils, enough clean water, fresh air, and a critical function of climate regulation.

This year, the theme for International Biodiversity Day is “we are all part of the solution” and that is exactly what the Conservation Champions believe. Their commitment to nature goes above the industry standards set by the environmental certification scheme – Integrated Production of Wine (IPW). These farms are achieving distinction in their IPW audits and are also showing environmental leadership in their commitments to nature conservation, water wise practices and shifting to renewable energy solutions.

WWF supports these farms by co-developing environmental management plans, setting targets and helping them to prioritise actions to address their most pressing environmental risks. Using  collective networks to raise awareness amongst consumers about the Conservation Champions is also critical so that with every purchase, these farms can be supported for their environment commitments.

The Conservation Champion wine farms are able to use the distinctive sugarbird logo on their wines to guide environmentally concerned consumers in their purchases. If this is you, look out for it, or better yet, download the Champion Wine Guide App and find out what fabulous on-farm experiences are in store for you next time you are visiting the area. 

Did you know?

The Cape Sugarbird and protea that form the emblem of the Conservation Champions symbolize the interdependence of farming and nature. Both the sugarbird and the protea make the Cape their home – the sugarbird is one of the main pollinators of the sugarbush protea so if the habitat for the sugarbush is threatened, so is the survival for the sugarbird. In the same way, if the biodiversity within nature is threatened by unsustainable farming practices and the expansion of human developments, then the land will no longer be able to provide us with the nutritious food we need for our survival. Wine is of course not a human necessity but as part of the agricultural and tourism value chain, the wine tourism industry is a significant revenue generator for the South African economy – contributing approximately R7,2 billion to GDP in 2019.*That was in the good times, pre COVID-19 prohibitions – let’s support these farms by visiting them, eating in their restaurants, purchasing their wine and bringing that revue back up again. That way you can be part of the solution too!

* This includes the direct expenditure of a visitor at the wine farm, indirect expenditure of goods bought by wineries from other local businesses to deliver the tourism service (restaurants) as well as the induced expenditure at shops. 

Diversity of Wildlife

Newly installed wildlife camera traps is one intervention that is helping these conservation-minded landowners to better understand what biodiversity is sharing the living landscapes where their vineyards and natural veld meet. The images have been capturing everything that moves, providing the ideal opportunity to gather data and has revealed surprise visitors – from leopards at Gabriëlskloof, Lourensford and Vergelegen to smaller mammals like antelope at Wildekrans. A diversity of these timid wildlife have been sighted including klipspringer, Cape grysbok, common duiker, grey rhebok. Baboons, and a number of different rodents, ranging from the porcupine to the striped mouse and dassies are also a sight to enjoy. Other predators include caracal, Cape clawless otter, large and small spotted genet, various mongoose species and the Cape fox at Paul Cluver wines. Many of these mammals are nocturnal and/or secretive and spotting them is usually all about luck! The images can help farms make more accurate local biodiversity assessments and they can be shared with partners, like the Cape Leopard Trust.

Images courtesy Gabrielskloof

The 45 WWF Conservation Champions are proof that progressive farming practices can  go hand in hand with restoring nature. Wine and nature lovers can look forward to more exciting innovations and experiences which promote farming in harmony with nature in our uniquely biodiverse corner of the world.

Be sure to use the free Champion wine guide app to help you choose which sustainable farm to support first and find out what is on offer before you book a table or plan a visit. The full list of WWF Conservation Champion farms can be found here.

Follow the sugarbird on Instagram to stay tuned on the amazing work of the Conservation Champions, and tag us sharing your eco experience!

The team have curated a special WWF Conservation Champions Mixed Pack and delighted to bring that to you:

  • Neethlingshof Unwooded Chardonnay : Neethlingshof has been striving over the years to create a balance between vineyard development and indigenous vegetation. Critically Endangered Swartland Granite Renosterveld habitat has been restored to create natural fragments and corridors to allow movement of fauna between vineyards and natural areas.
  • Vergenoegd Runner Duck Sauvignon Blanc : Vergenoegd is dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of our land with a number of conservation initiatives such as documenting and protecting the unique fynbos still found on the farm. They are dedicated to using environmentally-friendly farming practices. Today their working flock of more than a 1000 Indian Runner ducks forage in the vineyard, happily dining on snails and keeping the vineyards pest free, naturally.
  • Cederberg Bukettraube :The vineyards of Cederberg Private Cellar is situated in the Cederberg mountains, where more than 5000 hectares of pristine natural area is conserved. This natural area forms part of the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor between the West Coast and the Tankwa Karoo. Only 300 ha are used for farming and because of their isolated location (with low pest pressure) there is little need to use harmful pesticides.
  • Backsberg Tread Lightly Pinotage : In 2006 Backsberg became the first winery in SA and the third in the world to become carbon neutral. Backsberg has set itself the ambitious goal of generating all its own fuel and electricity from renewable resources.
  • Waterford Estates Pecan Stream Pebble Hill : Of the 120 hectares farm, only half was cultivated, with the remaining land being made up of riverine areas with beautiful old wild olive trees and open land covered in fynbos. In restoring the land Waterford has taken down fences to allow natural migration of buck, porcupines and caracal.
  • Delheim Merlot : Delheim is passionate about the environment and conservation and was a founder member of the Greater Simonsberg Conservancy, serving more than 20 member farms along the Simonsberg mountain. A series of ecotourism activities are available to the public; this include mountain biking, as well as a hiking route to the magnificent yellow wood forest on the Klapmutskop.