Graham Knox

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Why so bashful?

The makers of biodynamic wines are true crafters. They allow their product to do the talking. For reasons that are not clear to me, they are more than usually private about the practices they follow, particularly when you know they are trying to sell their goods. The biodynamic methods are clearly aimed at making a more attractive and rewarding product (as well as sustaining the planet). In many parts of the world, these are called natural wines. In Asia especially, there is a large demand for natural wines. Do they know about South Africa?

There are some major selling points the producers are shy to express. For example, they have low, near to zero suphite levels. Guessing that perhaps 10% of the potential premium wine market has a health problem with sulphur, and these consumers ask anyone who may know where they can find low-sulphite wines, you would expect label claims.  But the biodynamic operators have their flags down.

A South African fully certified exception is Reyneke, located in Stellebosch’s Bottelary Hills, who acknowledge the biodynamic factor in small type on back labels (pictured). But as with their colleagues, they make no mention of the consumer benefits of their work.

South Africa has four Demeter (international biodynamic classification body) certified vineyard/wineries (the two parts of the production are linked because you can’t have biodynamic wines without both vineyard and cellar being certified). There is no apparent rush to join.

I expect that things will change in a decade or so. We usually follow the Americans. Napa Valley has about 500 vineyard/wineries. Forty five of these were classified biodynamic in 2016. That’s 9%. If the owner of a multi-million dollar property adjacent to San Francisco can be persuaded to further invest in sustainability and help save the planet, who can say that it will not happen here?

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