Organic and biodynamic wine tends to get quite a bad rap, largely because the meaning of it is somewhat misunderstood. Technically, organic wine is made from grapes grown in accordance with principles of organic farming – no artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Organic wine extends to winemaking techniques in that little or no manipulation of wines occurs in the cellar.
At Reyneke Wines, under the leadership of Johan Reyneke, the belief is that old winemaking techniques are not archaic, but valuable. With less emphasis placed on ‘technological advancements’, Johan places more importance on natural balance, rather than balance sheets.
‘Some people dismiss it as old-fashioned nostalgia, but we like to think of it as ancient wisdom. And we embrace it as much as we can. Not just because it’s better for the earth, but because it makes for better wine’ – Johan Reyneke
The Publik team headed to the hills of Stellenbosch to learn more about organic farming from Johan, one of South Africa’s most noteworthy organic winemakers.
Back when the Reyneke farm first began as ‘Uitzicht’ in 1863, there were no chemicals or technological advancements, just the land and nature. Johan has aspired to keep this same balance and time-honoured tradition of winemaking. We were struck most by his respect of nature, of every living thing on the farm – from insect to vine to cow to duck to worker. No one goes unacknowledged or unvalued.
A biodynamic farm on principle needs to be self-sustainable and self-supporting. This is important for two reasons: to reduce its carbon footprint and be less affected by market forces. For example, if the farm produces its own fertilizer and compost there will be no need to truck in fertilizer in clouds of diesel fumes. If the farm is self-sufficient, its own cow manure costs the same every day, irrespective of the price of oil. This understanding is simply the tip of a harmonious iceberg.
‘Our philosophy of “waste not, want not” runs deep into sustainability. Whatever we use, we carefully think about re-using, re-purposing or recycling.’
This holistic approach relies on synergy between all entities – the veggie garden, the animals and the people. It was incredibly refreshing – and inspiring – to witness and hear first hand the value and respect that is placed on life. And as a result, the vines are healthy, the fruit is ripe and luscious and the wines are of exemplary quality. We tasted a selection of Johan’s wines, including the Reserve White 2014.
To get more in tune with the excellence of biodynamic wine, be sure to check out our Biodynamic Case, a curated case for the holistic movement.
Reyneke is open by appointment only. To get in touch with Johan for a tasting and farm tour email Deirdre to set up a visit on firstname.lastname@example.org. To discover more about the farm visit www.reynekewines.co.za.