Both from winemakers, who have not always been able to put in the cost and effort to farm differently, and consumers, who were not always sure they were getting a quality product.
At first, there was an acknowledged trade-off between eco-friendliness and quality and availability, and conscious consumers and critics alike had few good things to say about the lack of choice. The result was that organic wine somewhat missed the rising tide of interest in all things organic, and winemakers have had to work hard over the past few years to prove that their wines are just as palatable as their sulphite-rich counterparts.
But much has come to work in organic wine’s favour – its inherent purity of taste, and the charm of its winemaking traditions, combined with a rising environmental imperative. Pesticide-free grapes are considered by some to be more distinctive, and aficionados cannot resist the lure of artisanal wines with beautifully expressed terroir – with the acclaim to match. Recent academic research bears this out; a study of 200,000 wine scores came to the conclusion that organic wines “taste better”.
Farming for the future
The reason people are increasingly turning to organic wine is that – as with organically produced foods – they offer the unique selling points of being more environmentally sustainable and somewhat health-focused.
“The underlying philosophy to organic wine farming embraces sustainability and careful, holistic stewardship of the land,” says Tania Kleintjes, the organic winemaker at Spier, one of the oldest wine farms in South Africa’s iconic Stellenbosch wine region.
“It is an expensive way of farming, with a rigorous accreditation process – but when a winemaker chooses to go this route, consumers know that they are doing so with the good health of the environment in mind,” adds Kleintjes. “As with growing organic strawberries or apples, it’s a win both for the planet and for consumers who can feel assured that they are making the healthier, more natural choice.”
Spier’s method of organic farming creates a self-regulating, natural ecosystem in and around its vineyards.
“We farm as naturally as possible, without chemical fertilisers or pesticides, and 100% of our organic waste is transformed into organic fertiliser,” explains Kleintjes. “The cover crops we plant add nutrients to the soil, aid water retention, prevent weed growth and provide habitat for beneficial insects that are the natural enemy of problem species.”
Spier’s earth-friendly ethos is increasingly resonating with consumers, along with its transparency regarding what goes into the wines – which helps to increase consumer trust. “I believe that the winemaking process should involve as little interference as possible,” says Kleintjes “This ensures the wines can express our unique terroir – in all its richness, nuance and complexity.”
Organic wine scooping awards
The result of this care for the earth and expert craftsmanship in the cellar are wines that are as acclaimed as they are delightful. Made with grapes sourced from just over 80 hectares of vines, Spier’s organic wines have received over 40 industry accolades, including a Gold from the prestigious Concours Mondial de Bruxelles and 4.5 stars in the Platter’s Wine Guide for the First Stone Organic Red blend. Spier also scooped Gold at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles for The Yellowwood Organic Red blend and a coveted John Platter Wine Guide 5-star rating twice over for the Farm House Organic Chenin Blanc.
“We recognise that there is a big appetite for organic wines, and we’re committed to meeting this with a range of top-notch, earth-friendly vintages,” says Kleintjes.