Vergelegen wine estate in Somerset West, renowned for its commitment to biodiversity and sustainability, has been named an honoree in the annual Wine & Food Tourism Awards. Vergelegen shares the ‘WWF Conservation Leaders’ category win with La Motte in Franschhoek and Spier in Stellenbosch. Numerous conservation initiatives have contributed to this accolade for the 320-year-old wine farm, which was formally recognised as a Provincial Heritage Site in 2019:
· Vergelegen is the site of South Africa’s largest privately funded alien vegetation clearing project. A total of 2200 hectares were cleared by 2018, and 1900 hectares have been declared a private nature reserve with the same protection status as the Kruger National Park.
· The estate is self-reliant for all its water, with strict water management and water saving measures in place. Using 2010 as the base year, at end-2019 Vergelegen achieved 30% reduction in cellar water usage.
· Restaurant chefs make great use of ingredients sourced from the estate’s herb and vegetable garden, pastures and forests.
· Long-standing relationships are in place with specialist produce suppliers. All meats and seafoods at Camphors Restaurant are ethically-raised and locally-sourced, to ensure the best quality, support local producers, showcase the region, and reduce energy and storage costs.
· Camphors Restaurant is the only South African restaurant to have twice won the coveted Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability Award.
· Leaf-roll virus affects most vineyards in the country, especially red grape varietals. Vergelegen took the radical decision in 1999 to begin replanting vineyards with virus-free vines. The results are seen in terms of wine quality, with these wines highly rated by independent, globally-respected wine critics.
· The estate has 18 exquisite gardens, a herd of indigenous Nguni cattle, bontebok, eland, and spectacular scenery ranging from the Hottentots Holland Mountains to views of False Bay.
· Vergelegen cooperates with the Cape Leopard Trust and to date five different leopards have been photographed. Over 150 bird species have been identified, as well as 15 hectares of Lourensford Alluvium Fynbos and 105 hectares of Swartland Shale Renosterveld, both critically endangered.
“We are delighted at this acknowledgement, and extend our congratulations to our fellow awardees,” said Vergelegen MD Wayne Coetzer. “Vergelegen has always adopted a team approach to sustainability, whether it is turning to top scientists for advice on our vineyards and fynbos, or developing relationships with ethical, committed suppliers for our restaurants. It is a holistic, long-term journey that is based on excellent partnerships.
“As lockdown restrictions ease, and we can again travel and explore our natural heritage, I really encourage visitors to explore all the wonderful treasures that Vergelegen has to offer. What matters more than our over 200 wine and estate awards, is our people, who offer genuine hospitality, truly care about our visitors, and do whatever it takes to make them happy. Guest experience is at the heart of everything we do. Visitors must have such an incredible time, that they come back to us again and again.”