Backsberg Estate Cellars: Sustainability

Environmental | Carbon Neutral Wines | Pioneering the Future | BWI | Lightweight Bottles | Social Responsibility | Education Grants | Freedom Road: The owners have followed a ‘tread lightly’ approach to farming and from this has flowed their Tread Lightly by Backsberg product range. The commitment was started off with the necessary surveys of the status of the farm in terms of climate, biodiversity, health of the environment generally and setting in place directives to improve the farm.

The owners have followed a ‘tread lightly’ approach to farming and from this has flowed their Tread Lightly by Backsberg product range. The commitment was started off with the necessary surveys of the status of the farm in terms of climate, biodiversity, health of the environment generally and setting in place directives to improve the farm.

ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT PLAN

Commissioned in 2006 it analysed all aspects of the farming business and identified ways in which this can be improved, and initiated the way forward to improve the natural environment.

Accreditation:
Part of the way forward was to obtain the necessary accreditation. Biodiversity in Wine Initiative, BWI, for adopting biodiversity best practice. And Integrated Production of Wine, IPW, status.

Biochar experiment, tree planting and carbon offset:
Biochar is charcoal manufactured to standard where it is suitable as a soil additive. The advantage of the addition of biochar to the soils is that it increases the water holding capacity of the soil and any fertilizer that you may add is subject to significantly less leaching from the soil due to the adsorption of the elements to the surface of the biochar particles. Backsberg is leading the way in experimenting to improve local soil conditions.

Tree planting is part of a package of solutions to climate change and is currently either applying or reviewing a number of these solutions. We employ an environmentalist and a horticulturist. The “Green Team” is helping to create a paradigm shift of care for the environment.

Carbon offset sequestration solutions developed will involve a greening program within the nearby village of Klapmuts. This program will be managed by the internationally respected Jeunesse Park, CEO of Food and Trees for Africa, the nonprofit national greening organisation driving the Carbon Standard offset program in South Africa. This collaboration will see Backsberg use the Food and Trees for Africa Carbon Standard logo.

CARBON NEUTRAL WINES
Backsberg has become the first wine producer in South Africa and one of only three in the world to gain Carbon Neutral status by sequestrating its carbon emissions.

Proprietor, Michael Back, who joined the family business in 1976, is passionate about the environment, believing that each generation is the custodian of the land for a limited period of time only. “Care for the environment means care and concern for succeeding generations. As custodians of the land, it is our duty to understand and recognise potential threats, and to mitigate against them for the benefit of the next generation,” says Back whose forward thinking has already rescued several plant species from extinction by reserving 10% of his land for non-development and preservation of the endangered “Fynbos” biome.

Backsberg has completed a comprehensive carbon audit initiated to understand the carbon emission consequences of its farming and wine making activities. The carbon audit reviewed all activities from overall energy consumption, to CO2 emitted during fermentation. The level of detail considered in the audit allows Backsberg to deliver a range of Carbon Neutral fruit and wine to clients, both domestically and internationally.

The carbon standard applied at Backsberg follows the Kyoto Protocol on Green House Gas emissions. The scientific nature of the carbon audit allows Backsberg to understand the magnitude of the sequestration solutions it needs to seek and develop, in order to reduce its carbon footprint and maintain a status of carbon neutrality going forward.

The sequestration solutions developed by Backsberg will involve a greening program within the nearby village of Klapmuts. This program will be managed by the internationally respected Jeunesse Park, CEO of Food and Trees for Africa, the non-profit national greening organisation driving the Carbon Standard offset program in South Africa. This collaboration will see Backsberg use the Food and Trees for Africa Carbon Standard logo.

“We are indeed proud to be associated with Food and Trees for Africa,” said Back, who believes that a whole new market sector with the emphasis on care, not only for the wine and the consumer, but also care for the environment is about to open. Backsberg will now deliver to wine lovers throughout the world, fine wines, individually crafted within our wine making philosophy of producing wines with a high level of ‘drinkability’ which are also Carbon Neutral,” added Back.

“Trees are the most efficient and simple means for us to store carbon, providing us with the air we breathe and absorbing the carbon dioxide we exhale and that is emitted in large quantities by our carbon based society,” says Park, who was honoured with an International Chevron Conservation Award in California in October last year for her efforts to improve the quality of life for disadvantaged South Africans through natural resource improvements. Since the start of the Public Benefit Organisation 17 years ago, Food and Trees for Africa has distributed over 2,5 million trees throughout South Africa.

Whilst tree planting is crucial to the absorption of greenhouse gas emissions, it is equally important to develop more conservation oriented practices by becoming more energy efficient for long term sustainability.

Backsberg sees tree planting as part of a package of solutions to climate change and is currently either applying or reviewing a number of these solutions. This “package” includes conversion to bio fuel, setting aside land for development of additional biomass, reviewing packaging (especially in terms of glass weight) and the development of methane digester technology.

Fortunate to have both an environmentalist and a horticulturist in its employ, the Backsberg “Green Team” is helping to create a paradigm shift of care for the environment.

Backsberg Estate, situated along the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountains, midway between Paarl and Stellenbosch, has been producing quality wines for over 70 years and enjoys international acclaim as one of the Top 100 Wineries in the world as rated by Wine & Spirits Magazine in New York.

Backsberg offers a wide range of fine wines enjoyed throughout the world, not just for their structure and finesse, but for their seamless ‘drinkability’. Backsberg is open seven days a week for wine tasting, sales and lunches.

For more information call us on + 27.21 8755141.
Contact details for further information: John Spiers, CEO of Backsberg Estate Cellars | Tel: +27.218755141 | Email: john@backsberg.co.za

Michael Back, Proprietor | Tel: +27.218755141 | Email: michael@backsberg.co.za

Jeunesse Park, CEO of Food and Trees for Africa | Tel: +27.117846399 | Email: info@trees.org.za | Website: www.trees.co.za

Harmke Immink, Environmental Engineer and Carbon Neutral auditor | Tel: +27.832281781 | Email: immink@mweb.co.za

PIONEERING THE FUTURE
It is often said that history is an exact science. Crystal ball gazing allows you to dream about tomorrow. The needs and aspirations of Backsberg’s clients are changing all the time. The only anchor is quality.

Our current dreams are leading us to focus in two areas. The first is a recognition that to be in the wine business you also need to be in the entertainment and hospitality business. People who visit Backsberg want a holistic experience - an experience of good wine, good food, space and serenity, a place friendly to old and young. Much endeavour is being focused to achieve this.

The second relates to environmental care. Care for the environment implies care and concern for succeeding generations. Backsberg is fairly unique in that we are the only South African winery, and one of three in the world, that is carbon neutral. We continue to find better and more efficient ways to use our resources so that the land we use now will be healthy for generations to come.

About 10% of our land holding has been set aside for non-development and preservation of the endangered Fynbos family. In the process several plant species have been rescued from extinction.

More specifically, please read more about our environmental commitment in terms of: Carbon Neutral Wines | BWI – A Pioneering Partnership between the South African Wine Industry and the Conservation Sector | Bottling wine in lightweight bottles

We recently invited some journalists out to the farm for an environmental talk and the chance to discuss new ideas. Below are some of the articles they’ve subsequently written about us.

Urban Sprout | Mother City Living

BWI: Ten years ago, a full-time horticulturalist (Sandra Moss) was employed at Backsberg to attend to the estate’s landscaping. This work has evolved into large alien clearing efforts and considerable progress has been made. Michael Back, owner of Backsberg is also proud of the hundreds of trees that have also been planted on the estate to re-green areas and counteract the removal of indigenous trees over the previous decades. Birds are noticeably being attracted back to the farm by this re-greening project.

The main biodiversity feature of Backsberg is their approximately 35ha of Swartland Alluvium Fynbos which is also a critically endangered veld type, due to its association with the sought-after soils of the lowlands. This fynbos area, one of only a few patches left in the area, has been preserved over the generations and will never be ploughed even though it might hold soils suitable for more vines.“ Such an act of conservation certainly deserves fitting recognition.

The focus is on re-establishing natural vegetation, re-greening and clearing alien vegetation.

LIGHTWEIGHT BOTTLES
Backsberg, as part of our ongoing commitment to the welfare of the environment is looking into the use of lightweight wine bottles.

Lightweight bottles are better for the environment.

According to research, bottling wine in lightweight bottle can significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

Lightweight bottles are made from a higher percentage of recycled material which in turn is kinder to the environment.

Use of recycled material is more energy and resource efficient primarily because extraction, transport and synthesis of crude oil are avoided.

EDUCATION GRANTS
Several students have been or are being sponsored by Backsberg and have either graduated or are in the process of studying for their degrees:

FREEDOM ROAD
The aim of the Freedom Road housing project was to create a situation whereby permanent workers of Backsberg could acquire title to their own homes free of substantial debt. That aim has been achieved.

The project saw two wines released under the Freedom Road label in 1998. These wines were primarily sold to the UK supermarket group Tesco.

The history of agricultural housing was that if you lost your job you lost the right to live on the farm. For us at Backsberg it was important to break down this tradition and ensure that Backsberg staff had the freedom to choose where they wanted to work without being concerned about the issues relating to housing.

In the process, people were enabled to acquire, for the first time, a substantial tangible asset. Given the many inequalities of South African society we saw this project as a wonderful opportunity to shift wealth to previously disadvantaged communities.

At Backsberg we feel that we have three options when reviewing our position in South Africa, namely: Evaporate, Emigrate or Participate! We believed then and we continue to believe that participation is the only viable option.

The funding of the housing project was a three-way partnership between our workers, government and Backsberg. The contributions of the three parties can best be summarised as follows:

- The government through the housing subsidy scheme made available to first time homeowners.
- The workers for their care, supervision and management of 14ha of leased vineyards.
- Backsberg for bridging finance, winemaking and marketing skills and the making available of land on which to build the houses.
- The choice of the name Freedom Road was inspired by the title of Former President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom and the concept of “Freedom” from tied housing encompassed in this project. The first bottle released was signed by Mr Nelson Mandela at the Tynhuis in Cape Town.

Click here to view our media release on Carbon neutral Wine. | Click here for a pdf version of the information sheet.

Backsberg Estate Cellars
+27.218755141