Journey’s End Vineyards, the boutique estate situated on the mountain slopes above Sir Lowry’s Pass Village in the Helderberg basin, has been awarded WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) Conservation Champion Status, a prestigious accreditation bestowed upon environmental leaders in the Cape Winelands.
Conservation Champion farms are committed to regenerative farming practices, including conserving natural systems and biodiversity on their land and optimal water and energy efficiency.
The programme, originally called the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI), was initiated in 2004 at a time when the wine industry was expanding rapidly into highly threatened habitats, spurring a partnership between the conservation sector and the wine industry as custodians of the land.
This partnership began recruiting like-minded wine farms throughout SA. Together, they helped set up environmental management plans and put systems in place which were audited through the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) scheme, South Africa’s voluntary sustainable wine certification scheme.
By 2015, 90% of the SA wine industry was able to certify that their wine was environmentally friendly and responsible through the BWI and IPW partnership. The WWF subsequently renamed and restructured the programme to focus exclusively on working with and supporting the industry environmental leaders – WWF’s Conservation Champions.
In exchange for their commitment to nature and adhering to WWF’s high standards, the Conservation Champions can use the distinctive fynbos-loving sugarbird and iconic protea logo on their wine bottles.
This logo serves to demonstrate their dedication to conservation of the Cape Floral Kingdom, the smallest yet richest plant kingdom on earth which boasts an astounding biodiversity of animal and plant life, and to guide environmentally concerned consumers in their purchases.
The WWF supports these Conservation Champion farms in their environmental efforts by co-developing detailed environmental management plans, setting tangible targets and helping them to prioritise actions to address their most pressing environmental risks.
Journey’s End Vineyards was purchased by the Gabb Family in 1996, with a focus on ethically and sustainably producing wines of excellence. Being one of only 45 farms awarded Conservation Champion status by the WWF is an honour and an endorsement of Journey’s End’s long-term commitment to farming in harmony with nature.
Rollo Gabb, managing director of Journey’s End, says: “We have a deep respect for the environment at Journey’s End and are dedicated to regenerative farming practices, conserving previously unprotected natural systems, promoting biodiversity and the efficient use and management of water and energy.
“We love the area’s wildlife, birdlife and nature and have set aside 22 hectares of land to conserve and re-introduce indigenous wildlife and plant life species, most notably the critically endangered Swartland Shale Renosterveld and vulnerable Boland Granite Fynbos,” he adds.
They restore areas on the farm where vines have been previously uprooted, by planting more indigenous species. New floating wetlands will increase aquatic biodiversity, improve water quality and create a habitat for water birds.
“We plant lupins (a natural nitrogen fixer) and wheat between the rows of vines to inhibit weed growth (and thus avoid the need for chemical spraying), prevent topsoil erosion and improve the soil’s health,” says Mr Gabb.
“The introduction of Egyptian geese (to control snail populations) and Spotted Eagle Owls (to control rodents) and the use of natural pesticides all play their part in ensuring that the environment is preserved and protected.
“We are fortunate that our unique micro-climate created by the mountains, sea and wind allows for the implementation of biodynamic farming principles, with the powerful ‘Cape Doctor’ wind cleansing our vineyards of fungal diseases and pests. Bees are an essential part of the pollination of our vines.
“There are 40 hives around the vineyards that house our little bee army which is so vital to the production of our grapes. Owl boxes on the farm provide rest for our resident Eagle Owls,” he adds.
“We are also extremely vigilant and innovative when it comes to water conservation and supply to keep us self-sufficient and were the 2nd wine producer in South Africa to convert to solar energy in 2014.
“Making a positive impact on the environment and on the well-being of our community is at the centre of our beliefs. In August 2020, we launched the Journey’s End Foundation community project to tackle hunger and extreme poverty in the Helderberg Region through a network of soup kitchens – largely as a result of Covid-19.”
Since its launch, the journey’s End Foundation has been providing over 14 000 meals a week (exceeding its initial target of 10 000 weekly meals) to the surrounding community.
This extraordinary commitment led to Journey’s End being awarded Ethical Company of the Year at The Drinks Business Green Awards 2020. To date, Journey’s End Foundation has funded and provided over 250,000 meals to the local community.
“We will continue our focus on benefitting our surroundings environmentally, socially and ethically to ensure that we leave a legacy for generations to come,” concludes Mr Rollo.
Journey’s End have been steadily picking up more and more accreditations over the years and have a dedicated compliance officer who manages this side of the business.
· WIETA (Wine and Agricultural Industry Ethical Trade Association) accredited since 2013
· HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) accredited since 2014
· BWI (Biodiversity and Wine Initiative) accredited since 2013
· IPW (Integrated Production of Wine) accredited since 2013. IPW is a voluntary environmental sustainability scheme
· Fairtrade accreditation since April 2017 – and now working towards ISO 22000
· IFS (International Featured Standards) accredited since February 2019
· WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) Conservation Champion 2021