Integrity and sustainability: making better wine, making wine better in South Africa

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The next time you’re visiting your local ABC store, pick up a bottle of Graham Beck Game Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010 from South Africa and take a look at the rear of the neck capsule. There you will see an example of a world first – a certification seal that ensures the wine’s integrity and sustainability. This is a seal that can be used on all South African wines that meet the criteria and is effective as of the 2010 vintage.

The criteria for the “integrity” part of the seal include:

  • 100% of the grapes are from the region listed on the bottle
  • at least 85% of the grapes are of the variety listed on the bottle
  • at least 85% of the grapes are from the vintage listed on the bottle
  • the wine is bottled in South Africa.

Sustainability guarantees that the wine meets specific environmental guidelines first established in South Africa in 1998 and improved on since. To qualify, wine producers must:

  •  ensure the health and safety of their workers
  • minimize the use of chemicals and pesticides
  • introduce natural predators onto their farms
  • protect the biodiversity of South Africa’s rich floral kingdom
  • clean up waste water.

Farmers and sellers are independently audited every three years and if they meet all the criteria they will be allowed to use this new seal.

In 2010 about 60% of wine brands in South Africa were certified to use the seal. By 2011 over 85% of all wine brands were certified. The goal is to be 100% certified in the near future.

If you look closely at the seal you will notice that there are numbers which you can use to trace the grapes from vine to bottle and ensure that you are drinking a wine that has respected the environment. I tried this with the Graham Beck wine I mentioned and sure enough, by punching in the numbers online you will be able to see the production area, grape variety, type of wine, vintage, the Wine & Spirit Board Certification Number, the Sensorial Evaluation Date, and the Sustainability Status.

With so many people looking for sustainably produced wines, this is a great step forward for South Africa.

Bill Stobbs, Wine Supervisor

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