In South Africa, vineyards are being redesigned to resist global warming

Aerial view of the Reinecke estate near Stellenbosch, South Africa, April 5, 2024.

It’s a gentle revolution: To save South African vineyards from the ravages of global warming, which promises rarer but more violent rains, we must follow the curves of the landscape and recycle water falling from the sky .

“In the past, vines were planted in square sections”, explains AFP Rosa Kruger, 64, at the Reineke estate in the heart of the Stellenbosch vineyards. The deep blue-eyed wine consultant, who is lauded around the world for her contribution to the quality of South African terroirs, was considered a benign madwoman when she joined this crusade more than ten years ago.

Rosa Kruger shows drains between each plot to collect rainwater. They follow the terrain and connect to a reservoir at the bottom of the slope. “I don’t accept fate. We can fight a little, right? ,Mischievous and independent, she makes fun of the former lawyer, who seems to have made it a rule of her life to only do what she wants. “All the vineyards are mine. I don’t have any land, but that’s what I tell myself…”she said between two exchanges in Afrikaans with farm workers.

Between the plots, they have provided areas to plant fynbos bushes, which are plants native to the region, which require less water and have a bushy smell. for this purpose “Gains in Biodiversity”, allowing for less treatment of the vines and cleaning of the soil, to repel insects and various animals. Along the vineyards, pines planted by European settlers in the past consumed a lot of water. They were torn apart.

Rain floods amid prolonged drought cause barren land to collapse, a situation worsened this year by the El Nino phenomenon. Like this piece of disturbed earth on the top of the hill to which she points. “If there are still people who doubt climate change, we need to talk to them about it.South Africa ,She slips.

insufficiency of water

The Reinecke estate enjoys very favorable conditions: “Granite soil, prevailing winds, proximity to the Atlantic”, List Rüdiger Gretschl, 46 years old, cellar master and director of the estate. But “Growing grapes at the tip of Africa is a challenge.”He recalls: “The climate is already irregular, we already have very little rainfall, it is already very hot. , Investments today are essential to limit the effects of global warming “Guarantee the stability of the domain for at least fifty or a hundred years”,

Their biodynamic property has dozens of cows, from which we collect manure to nourish the soil. Older vines, especially Chenin, an emblematic grape variety of the Loire in France, make it possible to continue making wine during work. New plants give production only after three or four years.

Climate projections predict temperatures to rise by 3°C by the end of the century or even sooner. “It doesn’t sound like much, but I assure you it’s going to be hot! ,, says Rosa Kruger. But by 2050 there will be up to 30% less rainfall, less evenly distributed throughout the year and which will fall in torrents, causing floods.

The tourist town of Cape Town, less than an hour away, already faces regular water shortages. “When rains reduce, priority will be given to city dwellers, not farmers”, notes the wine consultant. Now even more reason to plan to operate self-sufficiently, without the need for irrigation. “That’s the whole point of the approach. ,

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