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De Wetshof close to Robertson was recently named the first recipient of the WWF Conservation Pioneer Award. CEO Johann de Wet explains the conservation ethos that earned the world-famous wine farm this accolade.
My brother Peter and I were raised in the beautiful Robertson Wine Valley close to the Breede River where our family has farmed for the last 70 years – so it almost goes without saying that we have deep attachment to this area, and especially its stunning natural environment. As third-generation owners responsible for the running of the farm, we are not only the custodians of the nature around us but our success as winemakers depends on it. We know that the best wine is produced when you farm holistically in harmony with nature
Large parts of De Wetshof have been set aside solely to protect the local fauna and flora, particularly alongside the river banks and in the deep ravines that carve their way into the Cape Fold Mountains. Here you can still find grysbok, duikers, hares, porcupines, snakes, mongooses, meerkats, otters and caracal roaming free.The Robertson Bird Club identified 92 species in one day, from the tiny malachite kingfisher to the majestic African fish eagle.
To ensure that wildlife remains undisturbed, we keep the building of roads and tracks through the property to the minimum and all our fences are regularly maintained and repaired.
For several years now, we have also had a rigorous programme of removing invasive alien vegetation and replanting indigenous trees, especially close to the river. This not only helps to restore natural vegetation but also helps with water conservation.
Here at De Wetshof, we work hard to inculcate love and respect for nature within our own farm community. One way in which we do this is through the De Wetshof farm crèche where the children of our staff are actively encouraged to learn about the natural world around them.
The children have their own conservation club where they are taught about the unique plant and animal species found here, and they take regular field trips away from the farm. We believe that these early lessons will set the children up to become responsible adults who will pass these values on to future generations.
Another eye-catching initiative is evident on the steep slopes of De Wetshof where young Chardonnay vineyards have purple vygies (a kind of flowering daisy) planted as a cover crop between them.
Cape wine farmers might just have the most unique cover crops in the world with both the Cape floristic region and succulent Karoo biomes on our doorstep. These local plants not only help to maintain soil health but reduce pests within the vineyard, which in turn reduces the need to use insecticides. It’s a win-win for nature and people.
And that’s not to mention the colourful display they make during spring. Come and see it for yourself!
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