Reyneke, South Africa’s first biodynamic vineyard and winery, and Graham Beck Wines were the big winners at the Nedbank Green Wine Awards held in Cape Town today.
The awards – held in association with Wine magazine - promote environmentally friendly wines and are given in two categories – for the Best Organic Wine as well as the Best Environmental Practice Award.
Following international trends, more South African consumers are trying organic wines for both health reasons and because it makes sense to support wineries that farm sustainably for the benefit of future generations and vineyard productivity.
The Reyneke Woolworths Chenin Blanc 2009 was voted the Best Organic Wine. It also won in the best white wine category, while the Reyneke Reserve Red 2007 was tops in the best red wine category. The best natural sweet award went to the Stellar Heaven on Earth Natural Sweet.
The Best Environmental Practice Award went to Graham Beck Wines, while the runner up was Paul Cluver.
The Reyneke label was created in 1998 when Johan Reyneke took over the farming activities from his mother and produced the first wines on the family farm, Uitzicht near Stellenbosch. Reyneke has gone one step beyond organic, and farms and produces his wines in accordance with biodynamic principles: “The intention is to interfere as little as possible, to allow nature to be the real maker of the wine and to truly produce terroir specific wines of the highest quality,” he says.
Stellar Winery, South Africa's largest producer of fine organic wines, processes just over 4 500 tons of organic grapes for the South African and export markets. It was the first organic winemaking operation in the world to gain the coveted Fairtrade certification and the first cellar in Africa to produce commercially viable no-sulphur-added wines. Stellar has subsequently become the largest producer of these wines in the world and is the number one organic wine brand in the UK.
Graham Beck Wines has been acknowledged for restoring and preserving large areas of all three major vegetation types found in the Cape Floral Kingdom - fynbos, renosterveld and succulent karoo on its Robertson estate. Their conservation management plan has earned them Champion status with the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative. Today 4.4 ha of land is allocated to conservation for every1ha farmed. Although their Franschhoek property faces different challenges, a complete environmental plan is already underway to produce wine with a minimum impact on the environment.
Paul Cluver Wines is a founder of the world’s first Wine and Biodiversity Route, situated around the Groenland Mountain. This 2 000+ hectare estate forms part of the UNESCO world heritage site, the Kogelberg Biosphere. Half of the estate has been set aside for conservation in perpetuity. It is also the initiator and mentor of Thandi Wines - SA's first black economic empowerment wine brand and the world's first Fairtrade wine brand.
Organic viticulture can be defined as grape growing that shuns man-made pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or fertilisers. Winners for the Best Organic Wine were made from 2010 or earlier vintages, or blends of various vintages. Wines were accompanied by a valid certification, such as that issued by the Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), an internationally recognised organic accreditation body.
Judges for the best organic wines were Christian Eedes (chair), Miguel Chan (Southern Sun sommelier), Allan Mullins (Cape Wine Master), Ginette De Fleuriot (Cape Wine Master) and Rianie Strydom (Haskell Vineyards winemaker).
The Nedbank Green Wine Awards Best Environmental Practice Award was open to all farms with the minimum requirement for entry being a 70 percent rating from the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW), the voluntary environmental sustainability scheme established in 1998. Organic certification is also accepted for entry into this category, but must be accompanied by several government authorisation documents such as water use authorisations and plough permits.
The judges for the Best Environmental Practice Award were Inge Kotze (project coordinator of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative), Lourens van Schoor (head of Enviroscientific, auditing body for the IPW), Tom McLaughlin (good business journey Specialist at Woolworths) and Johan Reyneke (Reyneke bio-dynamic wines in Stellenbosch).
Nedbank’s sponsorship of the Green Wine Awards further supports its aim to be the leading “green” bank. Nedbank has a long history of involvement in the wine industry including its 14 year sponsorship of the Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) and its involvement in the CWG Development Trust helping families of farm workers. The Nedbank Green Trust has been pivotal since 2004 in establishing the Biodiversity Wine Initiative, which is aimed at encouraging responsible land usage and farming within the wine industry.
“By sponsoring these pioneering awards we aim to increase awareness of organic, environmentally responsible options for consumers so that they can make more informed wine choices. These awards also recognise winemakers who are making a difference and encourage environmentally sustainable farming,” says Greg Garden, Group Brand Executive for Nedbank.
"The green initiative is about attaining balance in the natural world. With good quality wines the quest is also one of finding balance, and with ‘green’ wines in particular we strive to achieve more by doing less, or at least disrupting less," explained Wine's publishing editor, Cathryn Henderson.