Saturday the 27th of March dawned drizzly and overcast, which was a relief after a cooking hot week. A group of us set off for Backsberg, hoping the rain would clear so we could enjoy the planned biodiversity walk with Simon Back.
By the time we drove into the estate, the rain had abated, but the clouds were swirling and lurking in the mountain peaks overlooking the farm. We made our way to the unusual-looking Earth Centre building, with a living ‘green roof’ covered in grasses, where we were greeted by Simon and Pia. Inside we found chilled jugs of water filled with berries from the farm, which delighted the Danish and English friends we had brought with us.
A group of 20 Slow Fooders assembled and started the day sitting comfortably in the Earth Centre, while the rain resumed outside, and Simon gave us an introduction to Backsberg and its environmental initiatives. Just as we needed to set out on our walk, the rain stopped, and we enjoyed a half hour of strolling about the farm, with Simon showing us the interventions that have been made to help Backsberg achieve its status as the first carbon-neutral winery in South Africa.
We saw simple things like smaller, more fuel-efficient tractors (which Dax did a fine job of posing next to like a tractor calendar model) and experiments with various types of bamboo which could be used to offset carbon. Everyone loved the wedding venue on the farm, which we all agreed will probably grow in popularity as more brides begin to demand ‘greener’ weddings, as well as the glass workshop which had beautiful pieces for sale from recycled glass.
We had a brief squizz into the cellar, dodging the bats who live there, before Simon left us in the capable hands of the Cellar Door Manager, Danwin James. Danwin was the highlight of the tour for many of us – aside from being very knowledgeable about the wines, he kept us throroughly entertained and laughing all the way through the tasting. We all know the correct method for tasting brandy now and the taste of the world champion ten year old left some of us gasping with delight!
After a frenzied spending spree after the tasting, and clutching boxes of the delicious wines, we staggered back to the Earth Centre where a delicious finger lunch buffet awaited us. The sun had made its way through the clouds and we lolled about on the lawn in front of the Earth Centre munching and chatting. There was a sense of gentle camaraderie among all the attendees by this stage, and we eventually left, full and happy, having learnt and tasted for ourselves how Backsberg is trying to lighten its footprint on our planet while still producing wines of the highest quality.