​Exploring Wines of South Africa: Embracing Integrity and Sustainability

​Exploring Wines of South Africa: Embracing Integrity and Sustainability

Posted by EWWines on 1st Mar 2024

South Africa, famous for its breathtaking landscapes, rich culture and diverse wildlife also boasts a flourishing wine industry which here at EWWines we will be celebrating on March 22nd with a Wines of South Africa Tasting in store.

With an incredible line up of South African Wines with guided tasting, alongside South African themed food, for this evening ticketed event we are also supporting the South Africa charity with a £10 per ticket donation for this wonderful charity.

Tickets are selling fast, so please call 01637 838998 to book your place or enquire about further tastings.

Behind the organisations promoting South African wines, the vineyards and countless talented wine makers of South Africa lies a sincere commitment to sustainability and integrity. These organisations have created a seal which you will find on many of our South African Wines here at Ellis Wharton Wines. As we proudly embrace our BCorp certification with its sustainability ethos, this blog will delve into the significance of the Integrity and Sustainability Seal in the context of South African Wines.

Integrity & Sustainability Seal

Sustainable Wine South Africa (SWSA) is an alliance between the Wine and Spirit Board (WSB), the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) scheme, the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI) and Wines of South Africa (WOSA). Together they are driving the South African wine industry's commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly production. The SWSA scheme provides consumers with a guarantee that grape production was undertaken with due consideration of the environment and the farm workers and that the wine was produced in an environmentally responsible manner. The seal on the neck of each bottle (often nicknamed “the bus ticket” by South African winemakers!) means the bottle of has been certified by the WSB and the seal guarantees the trustworthiness of all information relating to origin, cultivar and vintage as stated on the label. This transparency and traceability of each seal is fantastic and means South Africa has become a world leader on integrity and sustainable wine production.

What does the seal guarantee? It certifies the following:

The vintage, variety and origin that are shown on the label are correct.

The wine has been produced sustainably, in an earth-friendly manner.

The wine can be traced all the way from the vine to the bottle.

The wine was bottled in South Africa – so it is 100% South African!

Brief History of the Seal

Great South African wine is quite a recent phenomenon. During the apartheid, the wine industry was completely dominated by one organisation, which controlled everything from production to price, so it is only since the early 1990’s that independent wine producers have fully emerged and flourished.

South Africa started its world leading wine production integrity initiative as early as 1974 with the Wines of Origin Scheme, then introduced guidelines on sustainability in the 1990’s where over 95% of growers and cellars stuck to the guidelines. (www.ipw.co.za). These guidelines were constantly monitored and improved, and independent auditors audited the farms and cellars to maintain standards.

From the 2010 vintage, South African wines have been able to utilise the new green Integrity and Sustainability Seal which has made it so easy for consumers to confirm the source and production of their South African wines.

Maintaining the Standards

It is critical for the success of the scheme that standards are maintained but also innovation and development is encouraged, as this will lead to a positive cycle of sustainable progression. For example when winemaker Craig Hawkins challenged the WSB with his Natural and Pet Nat wines as originally they were refused the seal as they did not represent ‘traditional’ South African wines, he successfully managed to get the WSB to agree that they these new style wines are as South African as traditionally made wines. 

Craig makes his wines from various small, organic (Organic but not certified) vineyard sites in Swartland and makes his wine naturally, with as little intervention as possible. These are stunning natural hand-crafted wines from low yielding vines, wild ferments and nothing added except a little SO2 at bottling in some but not all the wines. To try his wines look at The Dark Side Syrah or the Ninja wines – both available in store or online.

Clarity for the Consumer

If you would like to trace a seal on your next bottle of South African Wine visit the SAWIS website and enter the numbers on your seal. For example our new Beeskamp wines from Waterkloof, founded by Paul Boutinot in 2004 is a family-owned, organic, biodynamic and WWF Biodiversity Champion farm perched high up on the windswept Schapenberg, overlooking False Bay and The Atlantic Ocean. Living soils, naturally low yields and a long growing season help provide talented young Cellarmaster Nadia Barnard with naturally balanced grapes that are imbued with a truly defining sense of origin. Those grapes are then transformed into wine with a minimum of intervention. The resulting wines are fine, inimitable and made to be enjoyed with good food. Beeskamp Chenin Blanc comes up with the following information when checking the seal:

This is a complex Chenin Blanc that is fresh, soft and elegant. The nose is welcoming with prominent hints of stone fruits such as white peach and apricots and also showing hints of honey. The taste is round and smooth, finishing with slight acids that give the wine a beautiful structure and length. This wine will work very well with all sorts of seafood, from scallops to tuna carpaccio and sushi, also pasta and risotto dishes go down superbly – so why wait! Buy online or in store – we are always happy to help!