Meet Johan Reyneke, creator of succulent wines consistently lauded by international and local judges alike. He is also a philosopher, loves surfing and is an inspiration to farmers to look at the earth in a new way.
How did it all begin?
My mom and dad bought the farm in the late 80s while I was still at school. Coming from a farming background my mom ran the farm until my philosophy honours year at university, when I left and worked for a year in the States. Upon my return I got a job in the vineyard before resuming my masters degree and I basically fell in love with the place and everything relating to grapes and wine.
How did studying philosophy lead to you becoming a wine farmer?
My studies were in environmental philosophy and after a while I simply couldn’t carry on using herbicides, pesticides etc. as a daily routine. (To this day I cringe when I drive past a vineyard and see everything going brown in Spring). I started out on small scale, made some serious mistakes and paid my dues for a couple of years before going full out with an organic conversion of the entire farm. Today we have over 40 hectares of vineyards (which includes two neighbouring farms), certified organic and biodynamic, in the heart of Stellenbosch.
Perceptions also change and where a few years ago (almost) everyone thought we were crazy we now have people visiting every week and learning how to make the switch to organics. This is probably the most rewarding part of the journey so far. I’ve just received an email from a farmer in the Free
State whose father has a rare disease which makes him hyper sensitive to the chemicals used in conventional farming, and he wants to come and find out how to make the conversion.
What current certification do Reyneke Wines have?
We are certified biodynamic to EU standards and that basically means everything organic with the following additions: 1. We’re moving from sustainability to selfsufficiency (less dependence on outside inputs and lighter carbon footprint than the organic model) 2. We’re using certain herbal preps in homeopathic quantities to foster plant and animal health 3. We’re farming according to natural and cosmic rhythms to improve quality of our produce 4. In addition things are recognised for their inherent (as opposed to commercial) value and this lends a bit more of a spiritual touch to the usual consumerist/materialist approach.
Additionally, Reyneke wines carry the BWIcertification. Developed by WWF, this certification ensures that the wines that bear this seal have been produced in a way that does not infringe on the extremely diverse, delicate, ecosystems of our winelands.