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Catherine Marshall

Founded by recognised winemaker Cathy Marshall in 1997, the Barefoot Wine Company was one of the first true ‘boutique/micro-wineries’ in the Western Cape, establishing a then ground-breaking, ‘alternative’ approach, characterised by the use of a low-tech, but meticulous hands-on methodology which set the trend for the burgeoning ‘Garagiste’ movement. Thanks to Cathy’s tireless efforts, the company grew from humble beginnings (with a handful of friends and family gathering at harvest-time to press the grapes barefoot) to become an institution – inspiring hundreds of enthusiastic participants to attend the annual BWC ‘foot-stomps’! Her prowess has earned her a well-founded reputation for excellence. Since those early days, she has travelled the globe to hone her winemaking skills and is particularly proud of all her wines, especially her Pinot Noir – the change of name from the Barefoot Wine Co to Catherine Marshall Wines just says it all!

Catherine Marshall Wines moved into new (permanent) premises at Valley Green Farm in Elgin just in time for the 2011 vintage. Cathy has long term relationships with growers, sourcing her grapes only where the match between terroir and grape are assured of producing the very best wines.

Catherine Marshall Wines moved into their new (permanent) home at Morningstar Farm in Elgin just in time for the 2008 vintage. The 50 year old apple sheds have been restored as a production and barrel cellar. Cathy has long term relationships with growers, sourcing the best grapes from regions that most suit the variety, for example her Sauvignon comes from Durbanville, Pinot Noir from Elgin, Mourvedre from Malmsbury and Shiraz from Agter-Paarl.
Catherine Marshall Wines (formerly known as BWC and The Barefoot Wine Company) traces its roots back to a group of friends making 'barefooted wine' in a garage in Muizenberg in 1996. The company has grown considerably since those 'barefoot' days. Winemaker, Cathy Marshall, has travelled to Australia, California, Oregon, Bordeaux and Burgundy to hone her skills and is particularly proud of her Pinot Noir. Her motto is 'Powered by Pinot'!

Nature Friendly

Our small wine company has just moved on to an apple and pear farm in Elgin. Well-established trees that support a lot of bird life including the Cape Eagle Owl and other raptors border the farm. There is a prominent river that runs down one of the borders and is the main water artery through Elgin/Grabouw area. Since the farm was acquired 18 months ago, a program to remove invasive alien vegetation along the Palmiet River has been initiated (last done 30 years ago!!) The river now flows strongly and fish life is evident. Bluegums along the river (serious water sippers) are currently being removed. Indigenous plants have been added to encourage more wildlife and are also water-wise.

Organic / Biodynamic

Our company purchases all of its grapes from other vineyard sites. In order to support the carbon-footprint initiative, we are looking at localising our grape selection to Elgin and surrounds to minimise diesel consumption as of 2009. There is one farm that is totally organic where the use of pesticides, herbicides etc are implanted according to organic principles. Our winery is a member of the IPW scheme who monitors annually how viticulture and winemaking practices are conducted. We need to perform within the parameters set out by this organisation in order to be a member.

Water Conservation policies

We are very lucky in Elgin in that we have a good supply of water throughout the year. Bearing this in mind, we are still aware that there will come a time when water will be the most important resource in the Western Cape. We are at present building various small water-holding dams that also encourage aquatic bird-life, frogs and insects. The winery will have its own recycling dam to ensure that waste water will be cleaned up by means of carbon filters and ozone for re-use in cellar. Our waste- water is used to irrigate a half hectare grassed area so that this water does not leach into the river. All winery waste is stored in a tank and then sold off periodically to a company who recycles it into cream of tartar. Residual tartaric acid is also removed from this waste and resold in powder form to the wineries at a fraction of the cost in comparison to purchasing the same product from a chemical company abroad. All vines are irrigated according to vine probes and pressure bomb equipment to measure leaf water potential levels. This is hugely accurate in that the readings determine exactly what is happening in the vine at that particular moment and how much water is needed to keep the vine from stressing and affecting quality. Various cover crop programs are implemented that include permanent grass-like fescues to nitrogen-rich legumes- these help to minimise water loss and evaporation from warm soils and also control weed populations. Fescues are used in a few of my sites to mop up excess water that would otherwise be taken up by the vine. Nitrogen- rich legume cover crops are a means to provide Nitrogen for growth in the vine rather than fertilising with exogenous chemicals. The organic site grown in Malmesbury shales has a high incidence of salt which means that we are unable to irrigate anyway, otherwise the salt would rise up to the root zone and cause vine burn. This means more concentrated berries and richer fruit- a lovely component. A real win- win situation.

Recycling of dry goods

A glass recycling company collects all of our unused glass. After bottling and labelling- all plastic and cardboard shrouding is delivered to a recycle depot in Stellenbosch where the proceeds gleaned from this operation are collected for an end of year function for the farm staff. Glass bottles from cellar door sales are collected on a weekly basis and dropped off at various glass banks for recycling.

Actions to neutralise carbon footprint

We have been using lightweight bottles since 2004. Our decision to change bottle weight was driven by our responsibility to the planet in terms of using less glass per bottle and the energy required to make the glass. We felt that the switch to a lighter bottle would not harm our image and now that it has become a global carbon footprint issue we can now use this as a positive tool to market our wine. In the recent past the fact that a wine was bottled in a heavy weight bottle meant premium quality - thank goodness that has now become a non-entity. All geysers, lights are kept off unless needed. We don't have a cooling plant as yet and will only use it to cold stabilise wine and during harvest. Our barrel cellar is an old apple shed that has been renovated. The walls are very thick and there is a layer of polystyrene between the two thick walls. This allows for perfect natural cooling conditions without the need for electric cooling fans to control temperatures. In order to neutralise our carbon footprint, loads of trees exist on our farm - new and old. Every now and again another tree or indigenous plant is added to upgrade the farm's aesthetic appeal.

Social responsibility

At present, we have not employed anyone in the cellar. Currently, we contribute funds for children at a school close to our winery and the other contribution is to a major social welfare group that provide funds to people who are in need (Rotary). No specific education policy is in place as yet.