FOOD & BEVERAGES: SA Wine's First Sustainable Seal
Recent Western Cape Business News
The South Africa wine industry has launched the world’s first sustainability seal as a guarantee of eco-friendly production. Issued by the Wine and Spirit Board, the seal, intended for bottled wines only, is backed by a sophisticated tracking system in which bottle contents can be traced back to source at every stage of the supply chain to confirm the integrity of their production.
Every seal carries a unique number, through which the wine’s provenance can be tracked from vine to bottle.
Effective from 2010, the voluntary system is available to those wineries to have passed the accreditation of the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) set of sustainable principles, at farm, winery and bottling levels. IPW covers a range of issues such as integrated pest management, the health of workers, the conservation of biodiversity and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The seal is the result of collaboration between the Wine & Spirits Board, IPW, as well as the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI) and Wines of South Africa (WOSA) with the generic marketing body responsible for the worldwide launch of the concept as part of its Brand South Africa campaign.
WOSA CEO, Su Birch, speaking on behalf of the initiative, says it is expected to give another boost to the country’s already widely recognised international lead in the production integrity of wine. “Although other countries are introducing similar initiatives on a limited scale, at this stage South Africa is the only country to have the means to implement and certify the concept across the entire wine industry.
“The seal is a continuation of the local wine industry’s pioneering approach to sustainable wine growing and winemaking. The launch of IPW in 1998 was an important international benchmark for environmentally responsible wine production. This was followed in 2004 by the establishment of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative that seeks to reserve land within the Cape Winelands for protection and rehabilitation to indigenous habitat.
“From this year’s harvest, producers who have been audited will be entitled to use the new seal as a visual guarantee of their commitment to environmentally-sensitive winemaking,” she says.
“Linked to the existing Wine of Origin system that already guarantees the source of the grapes, their varietal and vintage, it gives a further guarantee of production integrity and sustainability.
The credibility of the seal rests on its ability to track every stage of the supply chain. Whereas the original Wine of Origin system, introduced in 1974, traces the bottle of wine all the way back to the vineyard, the new seal links the vineyard to the growing practices in that vineyard. This is a highly sophisticated tracking system that is being universally applied across the South African wine industry.”
Regular spot-checks by independent auditors are conducted to ensure these guidelines are complied with at all levels, she says, and that the production information supplied by the participants is accurate.
The original seal certifying origin, vintage and varietal will still be available to those producers not yet compliant with the guidelines for the new seal.
To date, well over 95% of the South African wine industry has been following sustainable wine-growing and winemaking principles and Birch expects about 50% of the country’s producers to take the next step by making use of the new seal from the 2010 vintage. Projections are that about 80% of the industry will be able to make use of the new seal from the 2011 vintage.
As the seal will be applied exclusively to wines bottled in SA, Birch believes it should act as a disincentive to producers to bottle their wines off-shore. “Those who export in bulk will not have the benefit of an easy-to-recognise message to consumers that their wines are made with respect for the environment.”
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