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Wine estates, in general, tend not to be on the eco-friendly side… The amount of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilisers that go hand-in-hand with most wine-making in Cape Town (and elsewhere) can be a little off-putting to anyone with an inkling of how negatively those practices affect the environments in which the vines are grown.

But, happily, there are some estates out there who are working towards a new way of wine-making – one that’s more in harmony with nature and all its quirks.  

Some go whole hog and farm organically or even biodynamically, while others find creative ways of drastically lowering their carbon footprint until their operations are totally carbon-neutral, or possibly carbon-negative.  Still others commit, via the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI), to preserving large tracts of natural fynbos and the ecosystems they contain.
It’s so exciting to see these pioneers bravely break away from commercial agricultural methods and invest their resources in more sustainable solutions – and I believe we should all support them at every chance we get!

One of the best ways to visit some of these wonderful farms and farmers is on a new ‘Eco Wine Tour‘, conducted by Charles Lourens of Bottle Plate Pillow, and Pieter Geldenhuys of PG Top Tours.

I was invited to join the tour a little while back, and had the most awesome time.  On your own, you might get a good wine-tasting in, and a chance to survey the scenery, but with Charles and Pieter you get the whole lowdown on what the farms are doing to be more eco-friendly, and can ask the many questions you might have in that regard. You also get to taste a lot of wine.

We visited the picturesque Avondale Farm, near Paarl, and literally got to feel (and smell) the beautiful soil in which the vineyards grow (no chemicals, so the soil is super-healthy), and meet their happy snail-gobbling ducks (no need for snail bait – those birds are way more efficient).  We tasted their superb biodynamic bubbly, and other fantastic wines (and took some home).

We stopped in at Backsberg Estate, and were shown around by Simon Back, who told us more about their latest carbon-neutral innovations (such as lighter glass bottles, and the recently launched ‘Tread Lightly’ PET bottle range,  which require fewer materials to produce, and by being lighter reduce the carbon-footprint of transport).   Somewhere in between, we had some generous samplings of the farm’s always-delicious wines.

Feeling quite merry by this stage (well, I certainly was merry – I’m not that robust when it comes to wine-tasting!), we then had a glorious lunch at Towerbosch, on Knorhoek Estate (a BWI-supporterTowerbosch is a wonderfully atmospheric restaurant which specialises in traditional Cape foods, with ingredients sourced locally where possible.  It was absolutely delectable, full of flavour, and everybody had seconds (and plenty more wine).

After that, it was time for an impromptu detour to Mooiplaas (not originally on the tour schedule, but we had a little leeway time-wise) and a bumpy ride up to the farmhouse, where we tasted more wine (naturally), and chatted to co-owner Tielman Roos about their farming methods (their wines are not organic, but do carry the Integrity and Sustainability seal).

As part of their commitment to the environment, Mooiplaas has set aside a large portion of land for the conservation of endangered Renosterveld habitat (part of our Cape Floristic Kingdom, unique to this part of the world).  Tielman leads walks through the reserve – and I hope to go back and do that some time soon.

And so back to Cape Town, where the tour culminated in a visit to Cape Town’s only city winery, Signal Hill Winery.  I loved this place… the wine was incredible, experimental and rather mind-blowing, and I really didn’t want to leave.  From three tiny urban vineyards around Cape Town (Kalk Bay, Camps Bay and one other… Oranjezicht, I think?), these guys lovingly produced just six barrels of wine that proudly grace the tasting room.  They’re passionate about keeping those green spaces in the city, and producing these unique and unusual wines.

It was a fantastic day out.  Charles and Pieter were both very knowledgeable about the wine estates, as well as about ‘green’ practices in the industry.  Each tour will be a bit different, with plans made for whatever weather comes along on the day.  And the advantage of going with a tour like this, is that the farms know you’re coming, and the owners or managers make a special effort to come and answer your questions about all their eco-initiatives.

Eco Wine Tour Details:
This tour is inclusive of all tasting, transport, guide and activities. The tour departs from Cape Town at 9am and will return by no later than 5pm. Book your spot on the scheduled Wednesday tour or alternatively book any other day (min 4 guests – Subject to availability). The eco tour is offered at R695 per person. A special lunch package has been negotiated to compliment the eco friendly theme and is available at R75 (Excluding drinks and service fee)
Contact info:
Charles Lourens, Bottle Plate Pillow: Tel 082 375 2884 www.bottleplatepillow.co.za
Pieter Geldenhuys, PG Tops:  Tel 083 288 4944. www.pgtops.com

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