Producing the finest quality wines relies on mother nature providing the optimum conditions for vineyards.
With this in mind, it is only right that winemakers should do their bit to help protect the environment – and that’s exactly what South African winemaker Backsberg, based near Stellenbosch, has done.
In 2006, Backsberg became the first wine producer in South Africa – and one of only three in the world – to gain carbon neutral status by sequestrating its carbon emissions.
In 2010, the company went one step further by using energy saving plastic bottles as opposed to glass. The Wine and Spirit Board approved the bottling of certified natural wine in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and Backsberg became the first South African winemakers to implement the change.
Its ‘Tread Lightly’ Merlot 2008, Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and Chenin Blanc 2010 were the first certified wines in the country to be sold in Mondi’s new, innovative PET soft bottle.
“At roughly half the packaging energy consumption of glass and around 25 percent less shipments due to size and weight savings, these bottles certainly support the Tread Lightly philosophy,” said Backsberg.
The company admitted its eco-friendly wine is sometimes met with scepticism. “Questions get asked about the PET bottle - the most obvious is ‘how does it affect the wine?’ The easy answer is not at all. The PET bottle has been cleared as safe for food and beverage contact by health and regulatory agencies around the world, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Canada, and the EU’s Food Safety Authority.”
The PET bottle protects against oxidation, consisting of two outer layers with a third oxygen barrier layer in between, called the ‘oxygen scavenger’. In addition, Mondi, the South African manufacturer of the bottle, guarantees them for two years.
As well as the obvious environmental benefits of PET, there are also instances when it is desirable to traditional glass bottles of wine, such as concerts or other outdoor events where glass is prohibited. The lightweight bottles do not break if they are dropped and are perfect to take on picnics, hikes and walks.
Tread Lightly has certainly passed the taste test. The 2010 Sauvignon Blanc won a silver medal at the Michelangelo International Wine Awards and was voted by the public as their second favourite white wine on show at the Cape Town WineX.
“Wine consumers have not really had much of a chance to opt out from glass bottles in South Africa without having to seriously lower their expectations on the quality of the wine,” said Backsberg.
Owner Michael Back remains focused on continuing to lead the way when it comes to being environmentally-friendly.
“Care for the environment means care and concern for succeeding generations. As custodians of the land, it is our duty to understand and recognise potential threats, and to mitigate against them for the benefit of the next generation,” said Back.
“The enjoyment of a great bottle of wine should never be at the cost of the environment. Whether by measurable process or by intuitive approach, every step we take in producing our wines must be challenged.
“Tread Lightly is spearheading what will surely become commonplace in the near future.”