Always glad to hear about wineries who’re taking steps towards being more earth friendly:

The Uitkyk wine estate is the newest winery to become a Biodiversity & Wine Initiative Champion, the 20th to do so. The estate, at 591 ha one of the largest in the Stellenbosch area, has set aside more than 310 ha of virgin veld, or 52% of the total property, for conservation. The standard requirement for championship status is 10 ha of virgin veld.

Uitkyk is for many synonymous with Carlonet, one of the classic wine labels of the Cape. In addition to its own range of Uitkyk wines, the estate also produces the popular Flat Roof Manor range.

The farm, which dates back to 1712, lies on the south-western slopes of the Klapmutskop Mountain. The vineyards are located on the higher slopes which are dissected by four deep gorges that create natural corridors between them. These corridors enable small game and predators to move freely across the property.

Rudi Buys, viticulturist and manager of Uitkyk, said a considerable part of the land set aside for conservation fell within the Greater Simonsberg Conservatory of which Uitkyk was a member. “The conservancy supports one of the largest remaining remnants of the critically endangered Swartland shale renosterveld, named for the rhinos which in earlier years were frequently found grazing in this type of vegetation.

Since 2008 we have been clearing on average 8 to 10 ha of land per year infested with alien vegetation. Working in one of the gorges recently we uncovered, to our great delight, a small stand of silver trees, that belong to the Protea family and can also be found growing mainly on Lions Head and in the Kirstenbosch area. We are obviously now very keen to re-establish these beautiful trees in our area.

Buys said the clearing of alien vegetation was undertaken by the farm workers in between work in the vineyards. “As the results of what we have been doing become more apparent and indigenous species start to flourish again on the cleared land, everyone’s involvement in the project has grown and so has the pride in our progress.”

Buys said in recent years there had been a very strong move towards farming sustainably on Uitkyk. “We were among the first to erect owl posts in our vineyards to control rodent numbers. The perches we designed are suited to the grip of different raptors. While owls, mainly the brown barn owl, hunt from the perches at night, during the day you will find jackal buzzards and kestrels resting on them.

Duiker and grysbok abound while the gorges provide perfect camouflage for the growing number of caracal hunting their favourite food, guinea fowl. The birdlife is particularly rich and varied, and more and more species are returning to nest on the estate,” Buys said.

Uitkyk Wine Estate is located on Elsenberg Road, Stellenbosch.  Website:  Tel: (021) 884 4416

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