Backsberg / Tread Lightly

Backsberg / Tread Lightly

Not satisfied with being South Africa’s first carbon neutral winery, as well as pioneers of a host of other “intuitive” initiatives that have made them the greenest winery in the country, Backsberg are now the first to bottle wine in Mondi’s new, innovative PET soft bottle.

Says owner, Michael Back: “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.”

At roughly half the packaging energy consumption of glass and around 25% less shipments due to size and weight savings, these bottles certainly support the Tread Lightly philosophy: Wine made with care and respect for the land.

Following the recent approval by the Wine and Spirit Board to bottle certified natural wine in polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Tread Lightly is spearheading what will surely become commonplace in the near future.

Naturally there are concerns from traditionalists over the issue of wine and plastic bottles, and Internet forums are abuzz with robust discussion on the topic. This is where Michael’s son and marketing manager, Simon, has been particularly active and involved. A keen blogger and embracer of social media, Simon has stepped into numerous online discussions to set the record straight regarding taste, longevity and quality concerns.

“The enjoyment of a great bottle of wine should never be at the cost of the environment”, says Michael Back. “Whether by measurable process or by intuitive approach, every step we take in producing our wines must be challenged. The packaging and transport of wine contributes significantly to our carbon footprint and therefore needs to be addressed.”

After a quick visit to the estate and a few minutes in Back’s company, it becomes apparent that the PET bottle is not the only “measurable or intuitive” step they’ve taken to reduce their impact on the environment. Every corner of the winery seems to carry a story of logic and sensibility.

Their tractors are tiny. Why? Because they don’t need large ones. And because small ones use far less diesel. And it’s not just the tractors. All the “trucks” on the farm are little 1.3L bakkies. They’ve also spaced their vines to reduce tractor mileage by a considerable chunk, all the winery buildings all have big skylights to cut the energy bill and they pump cold water from far beneath the surface of the dam to cool the fermentation tanks instead of energy-heavy refrigeration.

None of this cost them a fortune. But the saving in cost to the environment is huge. And this is what Back means when he speaks of logical, intuitive solutions.