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Seven ways wine farms can protect SA's natural resources

Unesco's World Heritage Committee declared the 553,000-hectare Cape Floral Region to be of 'outstanding universal significance to humanity' and described it as 'one of the richest areas for plants in the world'. It's thanks to this flourishing realm that South Africa (SA) holds the highest level of biodiversity in the world.

©jacquelinersa via 123RF
No wonder Lauren Smith, managing director of Cavalli Estate, that is set on 100 hectares in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, sees the role of wine estates in SA first and foremost as being custodians of the land. “From concept through to consumption, a love of nature is the point of departure for everything we do. Every design consideration is with the mindfulness of upholding the site and environment, from the establishment of the indigenous gardens and habitat for wildlife to the treatment of scarce water resources,” says Lauren.

Below are seven environmentally friendly tips from Cavalli wine estate that can help other wine farms protect their natural resources and become custodians of the land they farm on.

Birds and bees

With our eco-systems increasingly under stress, shifting our way of living to a sustainable set of practices is key. Cavalli’s environmental agenda is to conserve the endangered ecological zones of the Cape Floral Kingdom and contribute to the biosphere by planting thousands of plants and hundreds of mature trees. This makes for an environment that supports birds, bees and other animals.

Owl and bat boxes that are placed on the farm attract beneficial animals to control insects and other pests. The bats decrease the number of insects in the area and are a cheaper and more environmentally friendly way to control insects without the use of chemicals. The owl boxes are designed to attract Spotted Eagle Owls and Barn Owls. Cavalli also employs the use of a trained falcon to control the numbers of invasive bird populations like Egyptian geese and pigeons.

Local and seasonal produce

With global food trends moving fast towards plant-based and the soil to table philosophy, foodies are looking for nourishing, flavoursome dishes with an emphasis on soil to table. Cavalli has risen to the challenge with all the ingredients on their seasonal ‘Everyday Gourmet’ menu locally sourced. An heirloom foraging garden is just a stone’s throw away and fruit and vegetable suppliers just around the corner. The estate takes pride in growing their own seasonal herbs and vegetables. Most of the fish on the menu is caught locally daily. The meat is from Paarl and Stellenbosch and only free range, grass fed cattle is included. Not only does this mean that Cavalli boasts a lower carbon footprint, but the quality of ingredients ensures that dishes are garden-fresh-delicious.

Conserving water

We all know that SA is suffering a major water crisis and we must all do our part to protect this precious natural resource. Cavalli places great emphasis on water conservation and has been adopting practices that make responsible use of water an integral part of ensuring the health of land, community and industry for generations to come. A blackwater treatment system has been installed where all grey and blackwater from the Cavalli building is directed to the system, located outside the building footprint. This building effluent is treated for reuse as irrigation water on other parts of the farm. The irrigation systems installed within the landscaped areas are extremely water efficient, saving between 75% to 90% water usage.

Terroir and soil

“Wine is sunshine, held together by water” – Galileo Galilei. Speaking of ancient wisdom, of water and of wine, here you’ll taste the terroir in each glass. Cavalli’s wine and vineyard philosophy is to produce world-class wines with a very local character and a strong identity to be clearly recognised as hailing from the Helderberg region while endeavouring to be the benchmark with regards to terroir and quality for the Helderberg in the years to come.

100% Vititech motherblock plant material is used on the farm, resulting in virus free vineyards and optimal growth, producing outstanding wines. Extreme attention to detail is ensured from soil preparation to bottling, through a hands-on approach utilising only grapes of the highest quality. Sunshine, fertile soil and the fruit of the vine – what more do we really need?

Building on the future

Well, perhaps there’s one more thing we do require – four walls to house a place of wine and dine merriment which integrates, respects and celebrates the beauty of the Cape Floral Kingdom. The Restaurant at Cavalli does just that and is the first in the country to have been awarded a 4-Star Green Building Certificate from the Green Building Council of South Africa. The Green Star SA rating tool provides an objective measurement for green buildings to recognise and reward environmental leadership in the property industry. The main building which houses the restaurant is a passively designed building – the concept of ‘bringing the outdoors in’ continues with the foyer gardens which are used as an extension of the gallery to exhibit large sculpture works.

Harnessing power

To reduce its carbon footprint and keep the estate economically viable, Cavalli has adopted many energy-saving practices, which both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep wine farming costs in check.

The building employs a ​Geo-exchange system for heating and cooling the building. LED lighting has been installed which provides more energy efficiency with PV panels that generate renewable energy for the building. The building also contains 12 eGauge energy meters, HVAC plant, lighting and power in the basement and ground floor, and lifts, allowing up to 30 years of load profile data to be collected.

Solar PV Panels on the roof use the sun’s solar radiation to generate electricity for the facility. 80,000kw of energy is produced which reduces overall greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to the energy efficiency of the building – just one of the attributes which secured the 4-star green rating.

Waste not – want not

Cavalli’s mantra for waste is ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. Cavalli’s reduces the environmental impact of waste from packaging used daily with Averda that manages the recycling system. The restaurant at Cavalli has adopted measures that will ensure that waste generation is minimised and that all waste is sorted into the various waste streams and recycled appropriately.


AgriOrbit is a product of Centurion-based agricultural magazine publisher Plaas Media. Plaas Media is an independent agricultural media house. It is the only South African agricultural media house to offer a true 360-degree media offering to role-players in agriculture. Its entire portfolio is based on sound content of a scientific and semi-scientific nature.
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