One of Chris’s absolute favorite wine regions of the world is South Africa. Maybe it’s because the region has a similar climate as that of Margaret River, one of his other favorites in Australia, but the wine is delicious here and relatively inexpensive. We booked probably the cheapest wine/food tour we’ve ever done with a small company here that seeks to help visitors understand wine better by visiting smaller, more local producers.
The first wine farm we visited was Vergenoegd Wine Estate, which is in the Stellenbosch region just outside of the city of Cape Town. They are famous for their biodiversity certification they’ve received, which is all due to the fact that they use over a thousand Indian runner ducks to feed on the pests, such as insects and snails, that grow on the grape vines. A few times a day, they unleash these herds of ducks into the vineyards during what they call a “duck parade,” where the workers all usher them from the pond and farm area out to the vineyards. In the middle of our tasting, we were interrupted by the duck parade call, and we all went out to gather to see the ducks being herded. It was the cutest spectacle — these skinny, tall-necked ducks quacking and waddling their way from the water along the grass, then along the paved walkways into the vineyards. I’d never seen anything like that before, and certainly never imagined this being a use case for ducks — organically pest-controlling a vineyard! The sheer number of ducks was incredible. You could also see the different duck personalities coming out because some refused to be herded, and instead established a “rebel” pack right under a tree for shade. Some of the workers saw them and started picking them up to go instead.
The techniques used around the world to be more sustainable and better to the planet never seize to amaze me. In this case, I just never thought that it would provide me this much entertainment.