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SA Wine: Rewilding The Winelands

The WWF’s 40 Conservation Champion wine farms are working hard to invite wildlife back into their midst. And this is how they are doing it…

These Conservation Champions are committed to farming practices that encourage biodiversity on their doorstep, and sustainable winemaking. They actively conserve and restore natural areas and are continually looking for ways to improve water and energy management.

Out With The Aliens

At the foot of the Simonsberg Mountain between Paarl and Franschhoek lies Plaisir de Merle, which has restored large tracts of previously alien-infested areas, and improved habitat for wildlife. As a result, they have had an increase in wildlife sightings, including Cape leopards, caracals and honey badgers.

The estate is also proactively establishing hiking and mountain-biking routes through restored mountain slopes to allow nature lovers access to and to help fund the continued alien clearing and restoration efforts in the Banhoek Conservancy.

Almenkerk Cellar

Almenkerk Cellar

Sustainability Central 

Boschendal, a 300-year-old wine farm in the Franschhoek Valley, takes sustainability seriously, using biological controls for vineyard pests and minimal agrichemicals. They have invested over R10 million over the past decade to clear the mountain slopes of thirsty invasive alien trees in order to keep streams flowing through the drought and reduce fire risk.

The wood from this alien clearing project is then fed back in to the farm through their on-site compost and mulch making and experiments with biochar. These are used to improve soil health and increase the diversity of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil.

Fostering Fynbos 

High on the Helshoogte Pass near Stellenbosch, you will find Bartinney Wines, where they have been hard at work rehabilitating old pine and gum plantations back to fynbos.

By turning over two hectares of former vineyards to proteas, they have created a natural buffer, and have specifically landscaped fynbos species in between their vineyard rows of their higher lying slopes to encourage natural pollinators, while making an effective living image of the iconic winged figure that is their logo.

Wildlife Awareness 

At Hidden Valley near Stellenbosch, they hold regular wildlife awareness days for staff (including snake awareness sessions for farm workers). Their beautiful farm dam is stocked with fish, especially for the visiting African fish-eagles to snack on.

Bringing Back The Bontebok

Bontebok (which literally means “colourful buck”) is a rare species of antelope unique to the Cape Floristic Region that nearly went extinct in the 1800s. There were only 17 animals left at one stage. Currently, the population stands at approximately 2 500 animals.

As part of a special bontebok project at Vergelegen Wine Estate outside Somerset West, land between the vineyards is left uncultivated to create habitat for the estate’s herd of 50-plus bontebok. This estate has also rehabilitated some 2 200 hectares, restoring indigenous fynbos and bringing back functional wetlands.

Vergelegen Bontebok

A Yellowwood Forest 

Almenkerk Wine Estate in the Elgin Valley has planted a yellowwood forest on fallow land next to their vineyards to attract birds and other animals. They have their own nursery where they cultivate indigenous fynbos, used in all their landscaping and gardens to create more suitable habitat for wildlife.

Among the creatures that have been spotted, are caracals, porcupines, mongooses, Cape clawless otters, and even a sneaky genet that wanted to nest in the barrel cellar! And last November, a family of Cape foxes raised two cubs in the merlot vineyard (and consequently found their way onto the Almenkerk Instagram account).

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Learn More

Download the Champion Wine Guide app from and stand to win regular spot prizes. Don’t forget to look for the Cape sugarbird logo when shopping for your wine as this indicates that the winemaker is a Conservation Champion.

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You Too Can Give WWF Wings 

Another great way to support the wonderful work of WWF South Africa is to donate your SAA Voyager miles. Donating your miles is easy:

  1. Log in to your Voyager account at com
  2. Choose Voyager Shopping and select Donate Miles
  3. Under Target Account, select WWF and make your donation

By donating your miles you will be helping WWF South Africa work towards its conservation goals. This frees up valuable organisational resources that can be ploughed back directly into environmental work.

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