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dimanche, 19 février 2017



 A Wine region under threat

Claude Gilois


The anachronism ‘Swartland Revolution’ is now well-known and over the last 15 years aficionados from all over the world have witnessed the emergence of a new viticultural area of South Africa, largely unknown, which has propelled the country onto the fine wine map of the world, a performance that South Africa has so rarely achieved before. Led by Eben Sadie and a few other visionary winemakers, they are producing wines of great authenticity totally in tune with the region’s Mediterranean climate and very often made from very old vines, lovingly cared for, on very appropriate soils for viticulture.  These wines are slowly acquiring an iconic status worldwide.   This revival of the South African wine industry is known as the ‘Swartland Revolution’ and the small team of 5 people that made it possible is called the ‘Swartland Gang’.


Swartland gang1.jpg

Now, it would seem that the second act of the revolution is taking place, this time not a metaphorical revolution, but a true one. The winegrowers and winemakers are rebelling against the granting of additional permits to the mining industry by local authorities to dig the land in the Paardeberg Mountains to mine sand where some of the emblematic vineyards are located.

South Africa is as well-known for its mining as it is for the ruthless management of the social unrest of the miners to improve their working conditions (44 people died in 2013). Sand mining in Swartland is a little like trying to extract shale gas in Provence as was suggested a few years ago by the mining industry.

Located 65 kilometres north of Cape Town, around the town of Malmesbury, Darling, Riebeek Kasteel among others, it is well away from the South African touristic traditional wine regions of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek which are booming with touristic activities around wine: restaurants, hotels, guest houses, local farms, etc.  In fact, when you drive from Cape Town to Malmesbury there is a point at which you enter into another dimension that feels like a parallel universe. You are struck in summer by the intensity of light given by the reflection of the sun onto the fields of cut corn drenched in sunlight which alters your perception of colours giving you the impression that you can only see one colour: yellow, almost as if you were tripping on some exotic substance.  

Swartland has been agricultural land for decades, known for its corn fields and now increasingly for its wine. But, it is an emerging country for wine with only a handful of domains which need to attract additional winegrowers, winemakers and investors to encourage groups of people who increasingly organise their free time around wine, an activity know today as oenotourism.    All the world’s major wine countries and wine regions have clicked onto the potential untapped income that can be generated by this form of tourism, known as Oenotourism and  practiced mainly by the affluent.   So, rather than trying to tap this financial windfall for the region, the municipality has decided to grant additional licences for mining sand. This is short-sighted as the mining industry is incompatible with attracting investors and touristic activity. Furthermore, mining is likely to leave a landscape of desolation when there is nothing left to mine. If you want to kill the potential of a region, this is the way to do it.What is happening in Swartland is nothing new and countless short-sighted projects based on greed and short-term gains are taking place all over the world.

sand mining .jpg


Winemakers and growers are appealing against this decision by local authorities, they have 21 days to present their case and have launched a petition. Please sign it, as tomorrow it could be your turn to face this sort of major disruption wherever you are. One word of caution, you will be asked for a donation when you sign the petition to finance the site, but you do not have to contribute.

 Sign the petition


This would be a major tragedy for Sourh Africa.

Écrit par : Paul Draper | lundi, 27 février 2017

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