Choosing our food responsibly is the whole thrust of the burgeoning local food market scene.
We’ve gone from being a solely supermarket-dependent nation, to one where people can make ethical decisions about where they get their food (those who have access to food markets).
The story behind food – where it comes from, who grows it, how it’s grown and how it gets to market has become important to a growing group of people who care about what they eat, and how their food is produced.
But how do local wines fit into the picture?
When are they ethically produced? How can we make sure we’re ‘drinking responsibly’ when faced with a variety of labels promising anything from organic to light weight bottles that are better for the environment?
Here are the labels you may come across:
Wine is organic if no herbicides, pesticides or fungicides are used in its production. Wynboer defines organic wine as involving ‘the holistic production of wine grapes while increasing and improving the well-being of the agricultural ecosystem’.
Organic at a glance:
• In South Africa the growth of the organic wine market is slow – around 3%
• In the UK it is 22% (the UK is the market leader when it comes to selling our organic exports)
• Most South African organic wines use international accreditation
• EU regulations allow organic wine to contain a level of sulphur dioxide preservative – less than half of that allowed for conventional wines
• Some wineries, like Stellar Organic, do not add any sulphur
BWI – Conservation in Action
The Biodiversity label (picture of a sugar bird on a protea) tells you that the wine producer is ‘fynbos-friendly’.
These wines are produced in harmony with nature and conserving natural habitats and species in the Western Cape winelands.
Now under the auspices of WWF, the initiative has conserved over 126 000 hectares of natural area in less than four years. BWI Champions have committed more than 10% of their farm to conservation.
INTEGRITY AND SUSTAINABILITY CERTIFIED
‘It’s not about making better wine. It’s about making wine better.’ This label on a bottle means that the ‘wine has been grown and produced sustainably’.
Every seal carries a unique number. You can type this number into their website and trace the wine from vine to bottle. The seal is a world first.
The label includes aspects like:
• Wine made 100% from grapes from the area in which it’s made
• Meeting specific environmental guidelines like minimal use of pesticides and chemicals
• Introducing natural predators onto their farms
• Cleaning up waste water
• Protecting biodiversity.
South Africa is the largest producer of Fairtrade wine in the world.
It’s an ethical label that means that both the producers and the traders have met certain standards that include:
• Labour rights (no child labour, health and safety measures, agreed minimum wages etc.)
• Environmental standards (protection of natural areas, minimised agrochemicals and pesticides, safe handling of waste and water, no GMOs)
• A Fairtrade Premium on top of the crop price – an empowerment tool, the premium is used by small-scale farmers and farmworkers to invest in projects that are good for their community, improve farming methods, buy tools, pay for training etc.
• A minimum price – a floor price that takes into account the costs of sustainable production and living, and the cost of complying with Fairtrade Standards
There is only one carbon neutral wine producer in South Africa, and only three, so far, in the world.
The farm undergoes an extensive annual carbon audit to understand what carbon emissions its farming and wine making activities emit, in terms of CO2, and how much.
Their wine and fruit production follows a ‘tread lightly’ philosophy that includes lightweight, soft bottles for some of the wines, energy-efficient production, an Earth Centre (a cob building that functions as an information hub, workshop and space venue for sustainable development and climate change action), and a greening programme in the nearby village of Klapmuts. They’re also a BWI champion.
And while you’re drinking green it’s best to stay green, so why not book yourself into Eco Friendly Accommodation in South Africa? And you’ll find a maps of South Africa Wine Estates here, so start planning your trip!