There’s a lot to be said about winemaking the way it used to be. There were no chemicals, no “technological advancements” that made the process a process, and natural balance was far more important than balance sheets. It’s an approach that’s not just better for the earth, it’s also better for the wine – as respected critics have confirmed. So, while it may be somewhat old-fashioned, it may also be the way wines are made in future.
Organic farming is based on the assumption that a healthy soil is a much better way through which the above ideals can be sustained. Pests and disease are seen as a sign of imbalance in nature, and an effort must be made to remedy the cause rather than treat the symptoms.
Reyneke Wines is a Biodynamic and Organic Certified Wine Farm located in the Polkadraai Hills region, to the west of Stellenbosch.
The Reyneke label was created in 1998 when Johan Reyneke Jr. took over the farming activities from his mother and produced the first wines on the family farm, Uitzicht. The 40ha farm faces the historic town of Stellenbosch and overlooks the surrounding mountain ranges and the beautiful False Bay.
Since inception, Johan has moved from farming conventionally to farming organically and finally to farming and producing his wines in accordance with biodynamic principles. He is currently one of only a few winemakers in SA who produce biodynamic wines and is considered somewhat of a ground- breaker in this regard.
The aim for Reyneke has always been to express the uniqueness of the farm’s situation – the deep soil dotted with early Stone Age hand axes; the vines- some 40 years old; the crisp upland air – into the bottle. Reyneke believes that it is impossible to sense terroir if you are constantly changing it with chemicals. “The intention here is to interfere as little as possible, to allow nature to be the real maker of the wine and to truly produce terroir specific wines of the highest quality.”
Biodynamics: better life through healthy nature
Biodynamic Agriculture is an approach to sustainable agriculture that is based on the philosophy of Rudolph Steiner. Steiner built up his knowledge from keen observation of plant and animal forms, of traditional peasant practice, and from scientific study and deep spiritual research.
Biodynamic farmers use a range of specially formulated herbal, mineral and organic preparations to enhance the soil, boost plant and animal life and increase fertility. They develop farms into unique and distinct individualities that use the minimum of external inputs to produce high quality food, fiber and timber with no negative impact on the environment. The farmers work with natural and cosmic cycles, rhythms and forces that regulate all life on earth to create a harmonious whole.
In the wine cellar the basic organic principles are shared. Wines should not be ‘made’ and the use of enzymes, protein- and cold stabilizations should be avoided. Specific cellar practices such as harvesting grapes or racking wine should be done in accordance with the natural and cosmic rhythms. The aim is to produce, with as little intervention as possible, wines that accurately portray the uniqueness of their vineyard and of the season.
Modern agriculture is based on an approach where the scientific application of chemicals is seen as the solution to maintain high levels of crop production, to control the accompanying diseases, and attempt to stay one step ahead of the increasing resistance that pests, diseases and weeds are showing.