Best ‘organic’ wines stand their ground in any company… No quarter asked or given

Reyneke, Watering Can (cropped)ONE OF THE annual wine competitions viewed with scepticism in some quarters culminates in South Africa’s Green Wine Awards… Ducks, chickens and cows in the vineyards, horses instead of tractors, natural winemaking and minimal intervention as regards fertiliser and pest control, organically-grown grapes and biodynamic farming principles… All very eco-friendly, but surely the idea should be to come up with wines that are better on the nose and palate, not just in the mind! Why is it that there’s a special competition for green wines? And why is it that that some producers of organic-certified wine decline the invitation to compete for green awards?!

Reyneke, Cow (cropped)People generally expect food that is labelled as ‘organic’ to taste better than food that isn’t – and when it doesn’t, you can comfort yourself in the belief that it’s healthier, at least. But wine is not food, not really. It’s drunk for pleasure more than sustenance – hardly in the same basket as eggs, vegetables and other farm produce. While the practice of organically-farmed grapes for the purpose of winemaking is laudable, what sense is there in giving a high rating to an organic wine if it only stars when up against other organic wines! Why applaud an organic-certified wine for coming top in a tasting where better wines with established credentials but no organic certification have been forbidden! Particularly given that many organic wines are premium-priced… Especially as there are many top wine producers who farm using organic and/or biodynamic methods but choose not to talk about it in their packaging or marketing…

Arguably the most high-profile, most successful organic/biodynamic wine producers in South Africa are Reyneke in Stellenbosch, where the above photographs were taken, and Avondale in Paarl, whose proprietor Johnathan Grieve had the following comment to make about the Green Wine Awards: “The goal of all organic/biodynamic/natural wine [producers] should be to create amazing wines that compete and outperform their conventional counterparts. I don’t see the relevance of having a specific competition to highlight this.”

Most highly rated SA wines labelled ‘organic’

Avondale Cyclus from organically-grown grapes (White Blend)
Earthbound Organic Chenin Blanc
Earthbound Organic Pinotage
Earthbound Organic Sauvignon Blanc
Laibach The Ladybid Organic (Red Blend)
Lazanou Organic Chenin Blanc
Lazanou Organic Syrah Mourvèdre
Lazanou Organic Viognier
Org de Rac Organic Shiraz
Reyneke Chenin Blanc Organic Grapes
Reyneke Syrah Organic Grapes (2013 vintage pictured)
Waverley Hills Organic Brut (MCC)
Waverley Hills Organic CW Reserve Shiraz
Waverley Hills Organic Shiraz Mourvèdre Viognier

NOTE: vintages of the above wines have received good reviews in
open tastings recently. For top ratings in the past two years, click here.

The highly acclaimed 2013 vintage of Reyneke Syrah Organic Grapes is sold out at the cellar, replaced by the 2014 vintage at R103 a bottle. “The wine is in a similar understated European/Rhône style,” says Johan Reyneke. “A bio-dynamically certified wine made from bio-dynamically certified grapes…”

Wine farms strongly branded as organic/biodynamic

Avondale on the slopes of the Klein Drakenstein mountains in Paarl are strong proponents of organic and biodynamic winemaking – every Avondale wine is certified organic, but the words ‘organic’ or ‘organically-grown’ are only included on some of the labels, and even then in a manner that is quite subtle

Bon Cap Organic in Robertson has several ranges, some of which are labelled ‘organic viticulture’

Earthbound Wines of Papkuilsfontein outside Darling proclaim ‘organic’ on their labels

Elgin Ridge organic wines are certified as such

Fernskloof Wines from Prince Albert Valley in the Great Karoo include ‘organic viticulture’ on the label

Hughes Family Wines of Malmesbury in the Swartland subscribe to organic and biodynamic winemaking practices although their Nativo range of wines don’t carry the word ‘organic’ on the labels

Lazanou Organic Vineyards in Wellington clearly spell out their name on their labels

Org de Rac wines of Piketberg in the Swartland are labelled ‘organic wine’ or ‘organic viticulture’, albeit subtley

Porseleinberg outside Malmesbury in the Swartland is run on organic and biodynamic principles and the expectations are high

Reyneke Wines in the Polkadraai Hills of Stellenbosch has separate organic and biodynamic ranges – wines boldly labelled ‘organic’ and less boldly labelled as ‘organic grapes’ respectively – as well as the Cornerstone and flagship Reserve range that aren’t labelled as organic

Silvermist Organic Vineyards at the top of the Constantia valley offers a range of wines certified as ‘organic’, some of which are labelled as such

Stellar Winery outside Vredendal produces numerous ranges of wines, some ‘organic’ and some not – the huge operation also makes a ‘no sulpher added’ range of wines

Upland Organic Estate in Wellington has several ‘organic’ wines labelled as such

Waterkloof near Sir Lowry’s Pass outside Somerset West and Gordon’s Bay makes a big thing of its biodynamic farming and wine labelled as organic is in the pipeline

Waverley Hills between Tulbagh and Ceres label their products as ‘organic wines’ or ‘organic viticulture’

Also producers of ‘organic’ wines

Bellingham (DGB) of Franschhoek include an Organic Syrah in The Bernard Series range of wines

Joostenberg of Paarl practices organic farming and traditional winemaking methods but stops short of labelling their wines as ‘organic’

Laibach Vineyards in Stellenbosch produces some ‘organic viticulture’ wines, most notably those in the Ladybird range

Scali Wines of Paarl are almost all certified as ‘organic’, though none indicate ‘organic’ on the label