Reyneke Wines, Stellenbosch
Biodynamic Winemaking. The future lies right at the beginning.
There’s a lot to be said for the way wine used to be made. Back when the Reyneke farm first began as ‘Uitzicht’ in 1863, there were no chemicals or technological advancements. Just the land and nature.
Uitzicht (which is the Dutch for ‘View’) is perched overlooking Stellenbosch and False Bay. It has north, east and south facing slopes. The best land is planted with vines and the remainder complements the vineyards with pasture, compost-making and pockets of wilderness.
It’s the kind of balance that’s far more important than ensuring the spreadsheets all balance out. And it’s the true, time-honoured tradition of winemaking.
A biodynamic farm is often seen as an ‘individuality’. It needs to be self-sustainable and self-supporting. This is important for two reasons; firstly, to reduce carbon footprint; and secondly, to be less affected by market forces.
If the farm can produce its own fertilizer and compost, this will mean it’s less dependent on trucking-in fertilizer in clouds of diesel exhausts. If the farm is self sufficient, their own cow manure ‘costs’ the same every day, irrespective of the price of oil.
This understanding is simply the tip of an 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.
Even a seemingly small decision like whether to put paper in the office recycle bin. We prefer rather to shred it and feed it to our earthworm farm, which then supplies the vineyards with its vermi-compost.
This holistic approach to agriculture requires that we step away from monoculture. Although the vineyards are the mainstay of the Reyneke farm, they exist in a synergy with the vegetable gardens, the animal husbandry being practiced here, and, of course, our people.
Biodynamic agriculture comes from a time when there was a spiritual understanding of life in general and farming in particular. We try to never lose sight of this, putting people first, naming our cows instead of numbering them, and even studying the weeds (rather than just yanking them out) to learn why they’re there.We've made great progress.
We're nearly back where we started.
We believe there's a lot to be said for the way winemaking used to be. There were no chemicals, no "technological advancements" that made the process a process, and natural balance was more important 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.