Probably my favourite thing about working in the wine industry is the people I get to meet. I love meeting winemakers and grape growers and hearing their stories and philosophies and discovering their passion for their craft. For exactly these reasons, it was a treat to meet Johan Reyneke at our Merchant Tasting in March. Johan comes across as a gentle, quiet man but with warmth and charm and definitely a man of substance and evidently pretty philosophical.
Johan Reyneke at our May Tasting in the Merchant
Reyneke is the only certified biodynamic winery in South Africa. Biodynamics is based on the principles of Rudolf Steiner and is too complex to go into in great detail here but it looks at the vineyard as an ecosystem in itself. It’s all about creating the healthiest environment possible for your crops to maximise their resistance to the challenges that nature may throw at them. Being biodynamic is a step too far for some winemakers who like to have an arsenal of weaponry at their disposal to fight against the nasties mother nature can fire at growers. Not only that, but all that talk of moon cycles and cow horns is a bit ‘unscientific’ for some. Whatever your thoughts on biodynamics, it definitely requires a respect and care for the environment - not to mention courage and commitment. For Reyneke, it’s all about the wine. The farming methods are his way of getting the product he wants.
Not only is Johan concerned with the physical environment he is farming, but he invests in his workers. Cornerstone is his most well known red wine and is named in honour of the farm workers – the people he considers to be the cornerstone of his business. This wine pays for houses for the vineyard workers and will enable them to send the first girl off to university next year too.
Now, clearly all this conscientiousness is ultimately irrelevant if the wines are no good. Nothing to worry about here. The wines are lovely; elegant and flavoursome with good balance and concentration. All are good food wines, all will age, and all have enough depth and complexity to allow for a certain amount of savouring and contemplating while you enjoy them. They don’t taste the same as every other South African Chenin or Sauvignon Blanc - they’re a little bit different. I suppose they reflect Reyneke’s personality. How nice to drink wine that’s good for you, good for the environment, and good for the people who help make it!