Sustainable Vineyard Practices
Villiera has always been keenly aware that sustainable agricultural production rests on the principle that the needs of today must be achieved without compromising the needs of the future. This philosophy has been fundamental in our approach to farming where we utilise natural resources responsibly with as little impact on the ecosystems as possible.
Viticulturist, Simon Grier is an ardent advocate of maintaining environmentally friendly vineyard practices and thanks to his holistic management of the vineyards we can farm as naturally as possible without compromising the harvest. There is also a strong focus on water conservation, recycling, and greening initiatives. This has led to a vibrant eco-system on the farm, including huge flocks of guinea fowl and pheasant as well as steenbok, Cape foxes, grey mongooses, porcupines, and the threatened blue crane.
Environmental Vineyard Practices
Our property consists of 400ha in the Stellenbosch area, 180ha of which are planted to vines.
Apart from one year, where it became necessary in a small area, the farm has not sprayed insecticides since the early 2000’s. Vineyard pests are controlled and kept to a minimum by a large number of guinea fowl, other birds and predator insects.
2022 will be the sixth year of not cultivating Villiera’s bush vine vineyards (fourth year for our trellised vineyards). The vineyard relies on indigenous grasses and natural weed growth which is then either rolled, mowed or sprayed (minimal amounts of herbicides are used for weed control). By not cultivating cover crops, we ensure that the build-up of carbon remains in the soil and is not released into the atmosphere. As a result, there is also a reduction in the use of fossil fuel and compaction of the soil.
Thriving Bee Colony
Bees are very happy and productive on Villiera where we currently have close to 40 hives. Most of the above mentioned weeds flower, and add a good source of food for insects such as bees.
The main source of the honey flow starts with a yellow flower Ramnas (very similar to Canola but wild) then Echium weed, Eucalyptus, Acacia; plus many other veld flowers. There seems to be a correlation between a good honey flow and a good harvest. If we have early autumn rains, a good winter, and good rains in spring we have a long honey flow. These conditions are also good for the vines, especially the dryland vineyards.
The Bees also reflect the health of the environment. They are affected by stress and get sick which in turn affects the hive which is a perfectly organized system, where every bee has a job and they all work for the benefit of the colony.
Extending the productive life of our vineyards
We have reduced our vineyard area to 180 ha and have stabilised the crop at around 1800 tons. We aim to continue to improve the condition of these vines pushing up the average age and yield while further uprooting vineyard not producing quality grapes. In this way, we increase the area of fallow land left to nature.
Our aim is to increase the productive life of our vineyards to over 50 years. We will also be improving uniformity, quality and the ability of the vines to withstand stress. This requires making as few pruning wounds as possible – only small wounds, do a lot of suckering (Summer pruning) and maintain chronological order.
Villiera Wines is a member of the Old Vine Project and currently produces 4 wines from Certified Heritage Old Vine vineyards. Our vineyards are IPW certified and Villiera is also a member of The Porto Protocol, an international foundation which fosters climate solutions for the wine industry.