In 2010, South Africa introduced its sustainability seal, a world first that guaranteed both the integrity of the origin, vintage and variety stated on the label and that the wine had been produced sustainably according to ever more stringent environmental guidelines. Despite this head start not many South African producers have taken the final step to become certified as organic or biodynamic. A winery in SA can only claim organic on a label if it can provide proof of certification by a recognised, independent body.
One of the best known organic producers is Reyneke (Johan Reyneke’s Twitter handle is @ZAVineHugger which gives you a good idea of where he is coming from) and the winery is also certified as biodynamic. Johan is passionate about soil health and works with nature’s rhythms in the vineyards. Reyneke produces award winning wines, and Johan has also always been concerned about the best possible deal for his workforce. Proceeds from the Cornerstone range of wines enable workers to buy their own homes and ensure tertiary education for their children.
Brian and Marion Smith, successful IT entrepreneurs in the UK in their former lives, have pioneered organic and biodynamic farming in Elgin. Their land has never seen a chemical pesticide, and their ducks manage the pest control while their Percheron horse helps in the vineyards. The crisp Elgin Ridge Sauvignon Blanc and delicious Pinot Noir are tribute to their philosophy of co-creating with nature.
At Avondale, their philosophy is Terra Est Vita, or Soil Is Life, and their approach is one where all living systems are interconnected and interdependent. Avondale is certified organic and practices bio-dynamic farming. Their beautiful wine labels reflect aspects of cosmology and the acclaimed restaurant Faber presents superb seasonal food sourced from organic, free range and low carbon producers.
The dramatic and beautiful Waterkloof estate began the conversion to biodynamic farming in 2008 in the belief that a vineyard that is truly alive and in tune with nature will produce wines of vitality and with a strong sense of place. Percheron horses also play a big role at this winery. Approximately half of the farm is set aside to natural vegetation- the wonderful fynbos of the Western Cape-and, in 2008, Waterkloof was awarded Champion Status by the World Wildlife Fund’s Biodiversity & Wine Initiative.
Many other producers have vineyards in transition and are moving towards organic certification. The Drift Farm in the Overberg has been producing certified organic vegetables since 2012 and Bruce Jack means to convert his vineyards over time. The Drift doesn’t use any chemical pesticides or fertilizers, rather using organic sprays, mulching, cover crops and earthworm water from their own earthworm farm. As Bruce says” Farms develop different souls once the soil is prized open.”
With demand for organic and biodynamic wines growing rapidly in Europe and the US, we will definitely see more organic wine from South Africa. Here is a current list of certified wineries worth looking out for:
Find more information here: http://biodynamicorganicwine.co.za/