Farming equipment and practices for wine farmers

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Farming equipment and practices for wine farmers

South Africa is renowned for its assortment of successful wine farms around the country. Award-winning and flavourful wines are produced in our valleys and are distinguished by the different climates and environments in which they prosper.

There’s always a strong team behind a great wine and wine farmers know they wouldn’t be as successful as they are without their winemaker, viticulturist, farm and production workers. Today, we'll be looking at the farming equipment and wine farming practices which are used by many wine farmers in South Africa that contribute to their unique wines (aside from their team members).  


Equipment for the vineyard

There is a lot of equipment that goes into making wine, but we’re just going to talk about the equipment specifically used in the vineyard to tend to the vines and grapes. Having these pieces of equipment will save time and labour efforts for farm workers, which means more money will be saved in the process as well.

Some wine farms rely heavily on traditional farming techniques that have been passed down from generations, but it’s good to know that you can introduce technology and equipment without losing that sense of authenticity.

  • Vineyard mowers: As with any piece of land that grows grass, you’ll need to trim it and keep it tidy. Mainly for workers who need to manoeuvre between the vines at harvesting time and also to keep unwanted critters from wandering about. Vineyard mowers are specifically designed to fit between vines and use rotary cutters to trim and clear the area. It makes for a quick and effortless job of a task that is, otherwise, a drag.
  • Vine pruning machinery: Pruning vineyards in preparation for the new growth can be a timely task on a wine farm. Luckily, there is vine pruning machinery out there to make the task an easier one. Do the hard part first so that your hand-pruners can spend less time in the vine.
  • Compact spreaders: There are different types of farm equipment that can be used to spread fertiliser and other materials over your vines, but having a compact spreader will be ideal for a vineyard environment. Spreading equipment is essential for any farm and your wine farm is no exception.  


Sustainable practices

Sustainable wine farming has become popular amongst many of South Africa’s wine farms. Spier, Boschendal and Avondale wine farms are a few of these sustainable farms. You’ll notice which wines are rated as sustainable by the integrity and sustainability certified stickers that are (or aren’t) on the bottles.

But what exactly does it mean to be a sustainable wine farm? What are the kind of sustainable practices that need to be implemented in order to achieve this status?

  • Soil: The quality of soil for any crop will play a large role in how it develops. But it’s in the way in which you fertilise and enrich your soil is where the sustainability part comes in. Some wine farms have cattle on their farms as well as use their manure as a base for nutrient-rich compost. Creating your own compost heaps for fertiliser reduces waste by using all the scraps and makes a great difference to soil quality. Any wine farmer will be able to tell you how great the impact of soil quality is on the quality of the grape that is harvested and the wine that is later produced. It’s definitely an important part of the wine farming process.
  • Cover crops: The planting of cover crops is a technique used in crop farming and there's no reason why it cannot be used by wine farmers. By doing so, you are protecting the soil from disease and erosion and, ultimately, enriching and improving the soil quality.
  • Drip irrigation: Sustainable in that it requires less water by directing water straight to the roots. Drip irrigation in high-quality soil, with cover crops, ensures that there is less of a chance for evaporation and, therefore, less water wasted.

To be a sustainable wine farm you need to make the most of the natural resources around you to produce quality wines. And if you want one of those stickers, you need to have the correct vineyard, vintage and origin on your label, produce the wine in an eco-friendly manner, be able to trace the wine from vine to bottle, and have a wine bottled and produced proudly in South Africa.


Organic wine farming

Then we have organic wine farming, which has similar practices to sustainable farming, with some extra guidelines to work by, such as not being able to use pesticides. Pesticides affect the vines, affect the good bugs and affect the workers. For organic wine farmers, no pesticides are used but, rather, a healthy and productive biodiversity is encouraged. In certain areas of South Africa, wine farmers are also making use of the wind as a natural protector for the vines.

But you can’t really have organic farming without sustainable practices. Some wine farms in South Africa that are known for and are proud of their organic wines are Reyneke, Lazanou, Waverley Hills, Stellar, Laibach and Earthbound.

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