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Nature and wine are a perfect pairing at De Wetshof

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.

© Supplied by De Wetshof
The Robertson Valley in the Western Cape is home to De Wetshof wine estate.
Family bonds

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

© Supplied by De Wetshof
Brothers Peter and Johann de Wet in the cellar at De Wetshof.
Space for wildlife

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.

© Supplied by De Wetshof
A common buzzard – a summer migrant – finds a handy perch in one of the vineyards.
People and nature

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.

© Supplied by De Wetshof
Farm manager Christiaan Matthys in one of the vineyards where vygies are being used as an unusual cover crop.
Vygies in the vineyards

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!

De Wetshof is one of 50 WWF Conservation Champions that have committed to biodiversity-friendly and regenerative farming practices, conserving their natural areas and continually improving their water and energy efficiencies

Johann de Wet Photo
Johann de Wet, CEO of De Wetshof

Johann believes that production of good wine is dependent on respect for the whole environment.

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