What Goes into Making a Good Organic Wine

By Brian Lemay 2 comments


So you have a totally certified bio dynamic farm. So what does that mean? If I think of conventional farming I’m thinking fertilisers. What is really is the difference? A conventional farmer would probably go down to the cooperative and buy super phosphate or LAN depending on what the analysis says and an organic farmer would go out and buy certified organic fertilizer, and a bio dynamic farmer would go out and buy a cow. On a bio dynamic farm we try and reuse and recycle as much as possible. In bio dynamics there’s quite a big emphasis on recognising the inherent value of things. If you’re an employee today in a company and you earn an x amount of salary I would like to believe there is more to you than just, you know, your money worth whatever you earn at the end of the month. I would also like to believe that that respect should go not just to the people who work on the farm but be extended to all forms of life on the farm. So cows shouldn’t just have numbers in their ears and be worth so many Rands at so many kilograms, they should also be Daisy and Buttercup, whatever, they should at least have names and they have a fantastic role to play in the farm; they create pasture, they’re eating the weeds, they’re fertilising the soil. They’re amazing animals, they really are great. They’re like part of your family? Yeah, yeah totally. So my daughters get to know them. Shaka , thank you, that’s not very cool leaves the vines! So what they’re doing essentially is…….okay Shaka is browsing on a few leaves, but you know look at the vineyards, the vineyards are pretty cool. It’s just so unusual to see cows in the middle of a vineyard…………. I couldn’t have them here at mid harvest it would be a nightmare. They snack on the grapes, you know, like kids like to snack on ice cream……so can’t do that. They’re invaluable, they really play a very key role to this. It also diversifies the farm business a bit if you think of……..I want to show you some things in here as well…….but if think of an income stream if you are just going to look at………thank you Shaka……thank you. if you look at grapes we harvest them February, March and April; and with the cows at least you know you have another source of income on the farm as well be it milk or be it beef. If you look away from the cows and you look down, the vineyard looks pretty untidy; you can see there are a lot of weeds growing in this area but to me they all play a vital role. So we’re looking for a dandelion, this is essentially the preferred home of the mealybug; so with a bit of luck I’ll be able to show you one. You can see here’s a baby, makes these like white seeds that kids love to blow. Pull it up carefully. So are mealybugs you don’t want them here? Well, I just don’t want them in the vines. If they live in the soil next to the vine they’re harmless. Now let’s see if we get lucky…..we do get lucky. Do you see that sort of white substance? That bit of white you see there is essentially the mealybug, in front of my finger nail and this is the culprit that spreads leafroll virus. So if you kill its home, and this is the only thing you leave alive it climbs into here and you need more poison to combat it, but if you can allow some of the weeds and things to stay in the vineyards they live in harmony and in synergy. So yes, the yield is a bit smaller but I’m also saving on buying less poison and stuff and then of course the marketing angle, it’s ethically produced, environmentally friendly beverage, which is what more and more people want. So Kerry this is the heart and soul of an organic wine farm. This is fresh out of the winery. Okay. So that’s why it’s still so purple in the colour……….. Exactly. So if you make a white wine, you take the grapes to cellar you press them and you ferment the juice. But with red grapes what you do is you leave the skins with the juice for a number of weeks and they give the beautiful red colour to the red wine, they also give the tannin structure that you taste when you drink your reds. So these have been dropped here this morning; the cows you’ve just met, will come and snack on them tonight…..might get a little bit tipsy…..but not too much. They will probably snack on them for a day or two and then once they’ve snacked on them it’s going to look like something like that over there and we then pick it up and we build these beautiful compost heaps. So if you look at this……I mean I love the smell…… it’s a real farm smell. It’s just everything: so this is from the kraal where we collect the manure, it’s the grape pips, stems and skins. We even have the old thatch roofs that people after 25 years their roofs start start leaking and they have to dump it somewhere, we invite them to come and dump it with us and that is what the cows then stay on and sleep on for 6 months. All of that is incorporated with garden waste and stuff. So nothing goes to waste? Well, the plastic and metal we have to recycle off the farm, we don’t do that on the farm. Waste is a cultural concept not a natural one, waste is totally unnecessary. So very early days we’ve built these heaps now probably in the last day or two or three. They’re beautiful, but they’re not teaming with worms and all the other things yet. If you come back next week I will be able to show you those fat, white worms and a couple of earthworms as well and this then in turn goes back as soon as our autumn rain comes it goes back into the vineyards. So again the idea is to keep it as self sufficient as possible. Feed the cows with the vineyards and feed the vineyards with the help of the cows. Then this is a cow horn……we spoke about all things weird and wonderful, biodynamics and all the preparations and stuff. And one of the controversial things that we do do is to make this preparation ‘Five Hundred”. The idea is you fill this horn with cow manure.You then bury a bunch of them together in a fertile corner of your farm and you specifically bury it in autumn and you leave it there for winter and and it is also timed with what is now Christian festivals like Easter and Michaelmas that used to be pagan festivals in the old days. The contents of this horn is then emptied and put into a wine barrel, about a double handful. And then we stir it in the shape of a vortex, we create that vortex going, start stirring in the opposite direction so you have a moment of chaos and then vortex; keep on changing the direction for an hour and this solution becomes quite sort of viscose almost like an oiliness or slipperiness to it; and we then take white wash brushes that you would white wash your house with and buckets, empty the contents into the buckets and simply walk the fields and just splash this preparation over the soil. Now it’s amazing….it makes the soil soft and pliable, it brings incredible life to the soil. I was very sceptical of this the first time I started here, I just thought it was out there, but I gave it my best shot. And we did a comparative analysis with the soil manure, we used microbes that we brought. We had a control portion and we also had EM which is an abbreviation for Effective Microorganisms. And this worked very well and the microbes worked very well but this was R300 for the whole farm and the microbes was R30 000 for the whole farm. Now along comes along modern scientific paradigm and sees this as a superstitious bunch of nonsense and marginalizes the whole paradigm. Problem being that the modern scientific paradigm is also not without faults. You know there’s issues with sustainability, self-sufficiency, all the clever herbicides and pesticides and things that we’ve, you know, discovered through science, genetic modification of just about everything. So some people are going back and looking and exploring the olden ways. It is these olden ways with their strong spiritual ethic which are central to the Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy of bio dynamics and that are working so well for Johann, his staff, his animals and most importantly for the production of quality wine that is free of chemicals. Thank you so much and cheers. Thank you for sharing your story and your passion. I know this is early in the morning but this is delicious…..so this is like you just more!

2 Comments

Alice Ingraham

Apr 4, 2018, 6:47 pm Reply

The cows must eat the grass between rows and pass up the vines. Goats would eat everything. My chickens will eat the grapes. They also have to be kept out of tomato patches. Ducks are great for everything! Yes it works well to use beneficial species for our biodynamic wine. It's harder this way but it's worth it.

shake jones

Nov 11, 2019, 1:36 am Reply

awesome, loved the video but more importantly the information! knowing the story i would prefer to buy vino from Reyneke Organic Winery!!!

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