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Savouring Sustainability: Exploring Stellenbosch Wineries with a Focus on Agriculture and Environmental Stewardship

Amidst the hills and valleys of South Africa’s Western Cape, Stellenbosch beckons wine enthusiasts with its history, culture, and unparalleled natural beauty. Beyond its renowned wines and picturesque landscapes, Stellenbosch has joined the conversation on sustainability and climate change. Embarking on a tour of Stellenbosch wineries has now evolved to not only showcase the expert art of winemaking but also winemaking’s potential for sustainable practices and interventions.

Stellenbosch’s wine industry is deeply rooted in reverence for, and understanding of, the land that has been carefully cultivated over generations. Many wineries in the region have adapted and embraced sustainable farming practices, recognizing that the health of the vineyard and soil is intrinsically linked to the health of the ecosystem. Winemaking across the globe has started to recognise its impact and shift to more sustainable practices.

Wine tours provide a firsthand opportunity to witness these sustainable practices in action. As you wander through the vineyards, guided by passionate winemakers and viticulturists, you gain insight into the delicate balance between agriculture and environmental preservation. Cover crops, composting, and natural pest management techniques are just a few of the strategies employed to minimize environmental impact and enhance soil health.

Sustainability, however, is a concept that extends beyond the vineyard and into every aspect of the winemaking process. Sustainability “involves everything you do on the farm, including economics, environmental impacts of everything done on the farm and all aspects of human resources, including not only you and your family but your employees and the surrounding community”. From energy-efficient cellar operations to eco-friendly packaging solutions, wineries in Stellenbosch are continuously striving to reduce their carbon footprint and embrace a more holistic approach to wine production. By prioritizing sustainability, these wineries not only safeguard the environment but also ensure the longevity and resilience of the wine industry for generations to come. Furthermore, many wineries have implemented biodiversity conservation programs, creating havens for native flora and fauna amidst the rows of vines. These initiatives not only enhance the ecological diversity of the region but also contribute to the overall health and vitality of the vineyard ecosystem.

One such winery that exemplifies this commitment to sustainability is Fairview Wines. Last month the Blue North team visited them and was guided through their winery and the inner workings of their processes. The team was able to understand the complexities of winemaking and see the potential for wineries to incorporate sustainability principles into their processes in a multitude of ways.

Fairview is a wine farm and winery, and the farm produces its own range of cheeses. Our team was struck by the multi-faceted and holistic nature of the Fairview farm. The farm is made up of vineyards for winemaking and has chickens and goats, which are used for making the cheeses. They also produce dairy-free cheese and ice cream. The animals are fed lucerne, which is grown on the land. In fact, everything produced by the farm is cultivated on the land. The main focus of the farm is the wine; however, different production methodologies are incorporated into each decision in order to produce different products.

When it comes to producing wine there is huge effort and energy channelled into each bottle. Harvest is dependent on a number of environmental factors; therefore, meticulous planning is required for when it becomes time to harvest the grapes. Fairview makes use of several different methodologies for their harvest. Harvesting is done early in the morning or at night to ensure that the grapes are not exposed to harsh sunlight and heat. The farm also has an onsite laboratory to test the quality and different components throughout its process of becoming wine.

Fairview’s awareness of sustainability and environmental impact is apparent. In the process of wine-making grape skins are discarded, however, Fairview utilises the skins to make fertiliser that is used on the farm. The farm is conscious about its waste management and all organic waste is composted and re-incorporated back into the farm. This is alongside a comprehensive recycling and sorting system. Another sustainability initiative that the farm is in the process of implementing is a machine for the harvesting of grapes. This will allow for more time to harvest at night, ensuring cool temperatures during harvest. This, in turn, lowers the farm’s carbon footprint, which Fairview calculates using CCC’s online tool, as the cooling of the grapes further along the wine-making process is no longer necessary. The cooling process is carbon-intensive and makes excessive use of electricity, therefore, this has a significant impact on the farm’s carbon emissions.

What is important to note here, and another factor the Blue North team took away from the experience, was Fairview’s emphasis on job creation and social sustainability. Each sector of the farm and wine-making process is focused on job creation. An example of this is a local laundry business, which is run by the staff for the staff and has now expanded to clients off the farm.

There are always new and different challenges within the agricultural sector, especially the wine-making industry. The industry has recently encountered unique challenges, and input costs have significantly increased. People are tending towards cheaper wines as these input costs are increasing. Fairview has accepted this challenge; producing wine that is at a low price despite the exceptionally high input costs, and without compromising quality.

Fairview sets a positive example for wineries in the region and beyond. Sustainability transforms from a buzzword to a word of substance and impact at Fairview, and this extends to a multitude of wineries in Stellenbosch and the broader region. From the vineyard to the cellar, the tasting room to the restaurant, sustainability has begun to permeate every aspect of the wine experience, and it is about time. This transformation is vital in the current climate context and, therefore, worth celebrating. So, raise a glass to the future of wine, where sustainability and agriculture converge to create a holistic world of flavour, complexity, and harmony.

Harvest at Fairview

Harvest at Fairview Grapes Fairview's Cellar

Stellenbosch wine farm, Stellenbosch wine tour, Stellenbosch wine farms and restaurants, best Stellenbosch wine farms, winery in Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch winery South Africa, sustainability, agriculture, sustainable farming practices, environmental stewardship, biodiversity conservation, eco-friendly winemaking

BN Team members from the left: Sally Fraser, Nelise Olivier, Amber Paulse