In Stellenbosch, one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world, and the foremost wine and food region of South Africa, a flock of over 500 white, black, and brown Indian running ducks work as natural pest control, and farm regenerator, at the Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate.
Each morning, at about 10 a.m., responding to a single caller who uses whistles, gestures, and signals to invite them from their crates onto the grounds of the wine estate, the ducks march behind their leader, valiantly, through the South African grapevines at Stellenbosch in a band, hunting for bugs, snails, slugs, and other unwanted vineyard pests causing crop damage, and in the evening, they return to their enclosures to peck at pellets of enjoyable bird food.
They have been aiding pest control in the vineyards since 1984, helping the vines’ owners avoid pesticides and rather unhealthy synthetic fertilizers. “We call them the soldiers of the vineyards,” the Managing Director of the estate, Corius Visser, recently told journalists from Reuters.
The name ‘Stellenbosch’, created in 1679, after the city’s supposed founder, the Governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, translates to “(van der) Stel’s Bush”. It is a town in the Western Cape province of South Africa, 31 miles east of Cape Town, along the banks of the Eerste River at the foot of Stellenbosch Mountain.
After Cape Town, it is the second oldest European settlement in the province. Because it is immersed in history, a tour to South Africa may be considered incomplete without a stopover at this southern African city.
The town became the first wine region in South Africa to begin a wine route as a planned wineries network treating tourists to quality products of the vine, as well as connecting them to the soul of the region’s Winelands.
The wine route consists of a grid of more than 150 wineries – each offering an exceptional cellar-door experience to tourists and wine lovers. The Stellenbosch wine route is part of the six most famous tourist attractions in South Africa and is also linked to the international Great Wine Capitals Network.
Stellenbosch’s landscape is dotted by beautiful mountains and vineyards that offer splendid spectacles all year round. Beyond the superb sights, it is in this epic city that you will find world-class cuisine, mouth-watering wines, friendly people, and flawless service, which is why it is widely regarded as the gourmet of South Africa.
A visit to this town reveals a lot of the changes in the concept of wine tasting. Award-winning blends, from this town, creatively attract a younger horde of wine lovers, those with a sweeter tooth, as well as those seeking an admixture of daring, modern, and peculiar cuisine concepts.
Education and its institutions have a home here in this town, although tourism, wine, and food play a leading role in the history, present, and future of Stellenbosch.
The Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate, in Stellenbosch, dating from 1696 and built in the historic Cape Dutch style, is one of the oldest representations of the early Dutch settlement history in South Africa.
Recently, the vineyard also started working with the World-Wide Fund for Nature, WWF, South Africa, and other conservation agencies in the region on a project connected to native waterfowl habitat restoration.
Ducks are at the heart of the winery’s regenerative agricultural practices, precisely these Indian hunter-ducks, which have long legs and an erect posture, meaning they can reach for snails between the leaves.
Beyond pest control, the nutrient-rich manure from the ducks and other animals that ensure the vineyard runs as sustainably as possible, as well as other benefits that these birds bring, the daily duck display at Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate is quite a sight to behold. A leisurely source of entertainment and amusement for wine-loving tourists who also tour the duck pen and breeding area.
A tourist, Merle Holdsworth, while talking to journalists, said “It’s amazing how they behave themselves, walk in a row, and it’s like they’re in the army.”
Yodell Scholtz, who has been one of the breeders of the ducks for the past two years, describes how it feels to groom these beautiful birds. “It’s almost like raising your own children, so I enjoy it a lot,” Scholtz said to journalists.
While these birds may be considered meat in some parts of Africa, they have proven to be indispensable workers in a vineyard renowned for contributing immensely to the Global wine community.