South Africa, Swartland, January 2021: Wine-lovers who purchase Circa Pinotage Brut Rosé bubbly will henceforth be supporting a Cape-based, all-woman firefighting team that is arguably the only one in Africa.
The fledgling outfit was established just over 12 months ago. Called Juliet Crew after the only female descriptor in the international phonetic alphabet, the team comprises young adults from at-risk communities.
“The story of the Juliet Crew resonated with me,” says Christa von La Chevallerie, whose eponymous Swartland winery produces amongst others Filia Chenin Blanc Kap Klassiek and Nuwedam Old Vine Chenin Blanc. “Their journey in a male-dominated environment reflects much of my own experience in agriculture. “At the same time, fire awareness and management is ever-present in farming. Supporting Juliet Crew in their endeavours, as part of this essential component of agriculture, makes perfect sense.”
It is significant that the Huis van Chevallerie’s contribution is provided through a portion of sales of Circa Pinotage Brut Rosé. “The sites at which Pinotage thrives means it is often planted at the fringes of wine farms,” says Christa. “Here, it abuts fynbos which is not only important to conservation-minded farmers but whose life-cycle relies on fire too.”
Juliet Crew was conceived from the need to make firefighting more accessible to women. It was created through a primary partnership between NCC Environmental Services and the Chrysallis Academy youth development organisation, with the support of the Western Cape government. It became opera
tional as one of NCC Environmental Services’ network of wildland firefighter teams in January.
NCC Environmental Services contracts to SANParks (Southern Cluster), CapeNature, Cape Winelands and Overberg District Municipalities, Stellenbosch, and Overstrand Local Authorities and when needed, the City of Cape Town. It has around 35 private landowners – including wine farms – to whom wildfire agent services are provided; and, also specialises in environmental management, biodiversity and conservation, and health and safety.
“Businesses like ours fund transformation out of our own pockets. Extraordinary transformation initiatives require extraordinary interventions,” says NCC Environmental Services MD Dean Ferreira. “All our other crews are contracted and therefore self-funded. But at this stage, Juliet Crew is not. Our drive is to make this sustainable, in that we need work for this crew 12 months of the year.”
According to Juliet Crew superintendent Kylie Paul, money raised by amongst others the sale of Circa Pinotage Brut Rosé will go towards establishing a furnished and equipped base and other needs such as female appropriate kit and tailoring, and firefighting equipment.
“Juliet is still in its infancy and has a very limited budget, which is why this support from the Huis van Chevallerie is most welcome,” she says. “Responding to fires and maintaining a strong and healthy crew, with suitable equipment and operational gear is extremely costly. Standby quarters not only mitigate the costs of public transport, but provide a safe place equipped for women for before and after a fire call; storage for our vehicle and tools; and, where we can come together and train.”
Donated funds are facilitated through NCC Environmental Services’ Greener Futures Academy non-profit and directed 100% to Juliet Crew. Sponsors are able to receive 18A certificates.
The Huis van Chevallerie inspiration to support Juliet Crew is tied to its long history of winemaking on the Paardeberg ward of the Swartland. Christa’s father Juergen bought the 110ha Nuwedam farm in 1956 and she and her sister were born and raised on the property. The influence of women is woven into its very fabric. “My grandmother farmed here for 10 years before my father and mother were married, in 1970,” says Christa.
Among its proud associations is with the Old Vine Project, a South African world-first that certifies wines made from vineyards older than 35 years. An unirrigated Chenin blanc bush vine vineyard that Juergen von La Chevallerie planted in 1974 survives at Nuwedam to this day. Both the Fillia Kap Klassiek and Nuwedam Chenin Blanc have their genesis in this vineyard.
While the family sold the farm’s recently, Christa continues to produce wine using grapes from some of the Cape’s most fascinating and old vineyards. Exciting additions to the existing range are in production. Get all the latest news by following Facebook.