"The best fertiliser is a manager's bootprints."
This is the notion of Backsberg Estate Cellars' general manager Carel Malherbe, who easily walks the land between six and 10 kilometres a day. Farming sustainably is a lot of work, but it has a big payoff, especially when the Cape Winelands is still recovering from the effects of the drought that hit the region hard.
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Backsberg's vineyards. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
Backsberg has been around since 1916, when a Lithuanian decided to sell his butcher shop in Cape Town for a farm in Paarl, and today it stands as a carbon neutral winery since 2006.
They also have an organic wine range (they were certified a few months ago), vegan wine (no egg yolk and certain enzymes) and even Kosher wine that is fermented according to Jewish dietary laws where not even the winemaker may make any contact with the wine during certain parts of the process.
Backsberg is also a certified WWF Conservation Champion and has implemented environmental initiatives like setting aside a portion of their land to protect the endangered fynbos biome, an insect predator programme to reduce the need for chemical sprays and a queen bee project to protect the local bee population and promote pollination.
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This dam was built decades before the drought, but became an absolute lifeline for the farm last year. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
But their sustainability practices aren't just for show - it helps make their crops more resilient, easier to harvest and prevents carbon depletion in the soil by using natural microbes.
In their cellars, they keep their wine in rooms that were once used as tanks for wine way back when, and import French oak barrels from families that have been making them since the 14th century.
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These wines are stored inside rooms once used as tanks. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
Their range includes a broad range of wines from Chenin to pinotage to merlot, as well as fortified wines, brandy and MCC Brut. They are also currently fermenting an organic Malbec wine that will be launched when ready.
Backsberg's Sparkling MCC Brut. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
"You're trying to balance that question of getting the best quality, having enough yield to be commercially viable and all the environmental factors plugged into that," says Simon Back, fourth-generation owner and CEO.
Their tasting room and restaurant are perfect for both summer and winter - you can either lounge underneath their lush trees or get cosy inside next to their massive fireplace, knowing that your wine does good for the environment.
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A harvest table set up for events. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
The entrance to the tasting room. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
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