DeMorgenzon grows vineyards and produces wine in an ethically and environmentally responsible manner.
The points below, whilst not exhaustive, provide an overview of how we run our business in a way that respects all the natural resources required to farm, in addition to ensuring the continued wellbeing of DeMorgenzon employees.
The Western Cape is classified as a warm to hot viticultural area. Whilst the majority of DeMorgenzon’s slopes are south-facing and thus relatively cool, wine quality is retained using judiciously applied irrigation via driplines. Soil moisture probes are used to determine the levels of soil moisture, and thus the timing and extent of irrigation, ensuring the precise application of water. A network of runoff waterways has been created throughout the vineyards to not only prevent soil erosion, but channel rainwater to our storage dams.
Cellar effluent is passed through a reed bed where it is naturally decomposed and reabsorbed into the environment. Any excess moisture then filters into an evaporation dam which provides a natural habitat for various bird, plant and aquatic life.
Established in 2003, our gardens support an abundance of naturally occurring animal life. The symbiosis between garden and vineyards is crucial, providing corridors between vineyard blocks and major farm roads to encourage animal, bird and insect life and movement throughout the farm.
We stock tilapia, an indigenous fish in our dams and this encourages a healthy microcosm of water and bird life. The regular presence of predators such as the African Fish Eagle serve as examples of a healthy functioning environment, and is vital to the continued existence of the various animal species found in the winelands.
NATURAL HABITAT CONSERVATION
We are a member of the Bottelary Hills Conservancy (BHC) and we have 8 Ha of Renosterbos that we conserve. Since 1992 the BHC, which is a group made up of private landowners and conservation authorities, has been responsible for the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve. This area is managed with services such as fire management, invasive plant eradication and environmentally sustainable farming practices. With the UNESCO status as a World Heritage Site, the BHC has worked in conjunction with the Stellenbosch University to initiate integrative projects that include resident and partners to partake in the following initiatives:
1. Designing a status document to form partnerships with businesses.
2. Establishing a locally sourced and trained invasive tree clearing team.
3. Initiate and encourage organic vegetable and fruit production, including willing farm workers.
4. Food and wood waste upcycling and recycling.
5. Providing opportunities for research and development for university students.
(What is Renosterbos? The literal translation from this Afrikaans word is ‘Rhinocerous Bush’ and these plants are part of the daisy family and make up the largest component of the Renosterbos Vegetation type). The Cape Floristic biome is a global hotspot under severe pressure from invasive species. This type of vegetation is capable of supporting a vast diversity of animal life, from antelope and reptiles to predators – and has to an extent managed to continue to do so, but due to the extensive agricultural and urban development it is severely threatened.
A Renosterbos area roughly 10% the size of DeMorgenzon watches proudly over our vineyards and continues to be maintained and preserved with the help of the BHC.
ALIEN PLANT REMOVAL
Alien plants are removed annually by the BHC, a process initiated in 2012. The removal is vital as alien plants absorb water resources and also release toxins in to the soil, thereby inhibiting indigenous seed germination and creating sterile soil conditions. Through funds collected by activities such as mountain biking, hiking and accommodation, the BHC is able to continue the alien plant removal.
Funds from these activities and from LandCare, a programme supported by the community and the South African Department of Agriculture.
Stem in die Bos (Voice of the Bush) is a highly successful local winelands initiative company and is contracted to clear and treat alien species, including long term eradication and follow up programmes. Programmes include physical removal of the plants and introducing rust fungus in the affected areas, this inhibits the flowering and seed production in the alien species.Alien plants include the following trees: Eucalyptus, Port Jackson, Black Wattle and Rooikrans (Acacia Cyclops)
Schooling: Through the Sustainability Institute, DeMorgenzon’s proprietor Wendy Appelbaum has established schools for the children of employees at DeMorgenzon and the local community. Spark School in Lynedoch outside Stellenbosch currently educates five DeMorgenzon employees’ children, with support and payment for school uniforms, aftercare facilities and transport. This is provided at the primary school level.
Support: Earnings from winning wine competitions are pooled among all cellar and vineyard workers and are utilised for health-related matters, such as on-site eye examinations, supply of spectacles and funds are also used for gifting the work force with domestic appliances. DeMorgenzon also provides free transport to and from work for many of its employees.
Fresh produce project: each employee receives free seasonal vegetables grown at our nursery. This initiative was started to improve employee health and well- being , and since its inception in 2018 we have noted a decline in absenteeism and a general improvement in employee health.
We recycle all plant waste generated on DeMorgenzon, using it to produce our own compost. Each year selected blocks of vineyard are composted as necessary.
DETAILS OF NATURAL PEST CONTROL
We release predatory insects to control the spread of mealybugs which are the main vector of vineyard leaf roll virus, possibly the biggest threat to the profitability of South African vineyards, and an important factor in red wine quality.
Only once the mealybug numbers increase above a certain level do we release the predatory insects. The major benefit here is a reduction in indiscriminate pesticides which kill both beneficial and non-beneficial insects. By using natural predators we maintain a healthier balance in the vineyards.
ENERGY CONSERVATION, GREEN SOURCES, SOLAR ENERGY
During winter cellar cooling is switched off to save on cost and electricity usage. We have variable speed drives installed on all our major pumps, they conserve electricity by managing the output of each pump as demand rises and falls. We are investigating solar energy use and supply.
USE OF SYNTHETIC PESTICIDES, HERBICIDES OR FUNGICIDES
Where we are able to we make use of fungi and bacteria to treat pests and disease continue to do so.
We have been running field trials in conjunction with an environmentally friendly bio pesticide company since 2019, for the treatment of nematodes.
USE OF IPW APPROVED SUBSTANCES TO FIGHT VINE MALADIES
Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) is a voluntary environmental sustainability scheme established by the South African Wine industry in 1998, in line with international best practice as published by the OIV.
The scheme seeks to limit the use of harmful substances throughout the production process of wine, from agricultural inputs, right through to bottling, and is one of the most comprehensive schemes of its kind in the world.