The farming community in the Winelands is experiencing the worst drought many can remember. The Cape Messenger spoke to Gary Baumgarten, Managing Director of Anthonij Rupert Wyn, to get his perspective.
CM: You say this is the worst drought you remember. What is it like farming with less water? What are the big challenges?
GB: It is very difficult if you do not have the correct equipment to measure soil moisture. If you have less water you have to sacrifice orchids or vineyards and that is the most difficult decision to make, as it costs a lot of money in the first place to establish them. The big challenge is to split water using scientific equipment, to make the right calls, so that you do not have to sacrifice anything.
CM: How have you coped? Have you coped?
GB: You have to pray, that at some stage you will receive some water. Yes, we have coped, as we did a lot of planning in June of 2017 already.
CM: Is this challenge fairly widespread among the Cape’s wine producers?
CM: If there are more years like this, can you cope? Have you had to change/invest more to endure a sustainable farming operation?
GB: That is the most difficult question to answer. Ithink that it would almost be impossible to go through another year like this. We have had to invest a substantial amount of money to be a sustainable farming operation.
CM: What about the community in which you operate? How are they coping, and how are you helping?
GB: There is very little water for all communities, not only the one that we operate in. We are helping by making sure that the schools have clean drinking water for the kids on a daily basis.
CM: One hears that sometimes a harsh climate can produce a better grape, and hence better wine. Is there any truth to this?
GB: It is not always true, but if you know what you are doing in the cellars, you can make better wine. Harsh is not a great term to be used.
CM: There is inevitable pressure on the wider farming community to cut their water use so the city-dwellers have a better water supply. Are you feeling this pressure, and if so what are the challenges
GB: This is always going to be the case. The politics around water will keep it like that. No, we are not feeling this pressure, as we have planned for this, as I said, already a year ago.
CM: Who, if anyone, do you blame for the water crisis?
GB: No comment.
CM: Presumably things have not got so bad that you are planning to turn wine back into water?
GB: Impossible; only the Lord can do that.