Two decades ago, organic wine producers like Org de Rac had to constantly inform consumers about the benefits of growing grapes together with nature and thus making exceptional wine, “as our great-grandfathers did it”. Today, many cultured wine lovers insist that wine must be organic – therefore environmentally friendly – with Org de Rac experiencing a significant increase in the demand for its wines.
So says Johan Gerber, general manager of Org de Rac.
Farming organically in a world of large mass production (where economies of scale are the only catchphrase for some) and the easy availability and limited regulation of artificial chemicals and pesticides are initially time-consuming and expensive. But over more than two decades, Org de Rac has optimally utilised its environment’s largely disease-free conditions (located on the northern border of the Swartland along the N7 before Piketberg) but also introduced several sustainable growing and winemaking processes early on since its inception. This enables the farm to place various premium wines, which have been grown in a natural and environmentally friendly way, on the market at affordable prices.
In the refinement of the organic process of more than two decades, the wine-farm recently also designed its own earthworm “incubators” to continuously release earthworms into the vineyards’ soils to further the organic matter and soil microbes. The resulting increased quality of the humus – also due to the natural fertilisation from the farm’s water-buffaloes and the droppings of seabirds – serves as an excellent plant food. In this way, soil fertility improves, soil aeration increases, and water-holding capacity increases, but the pH levels are kept neutral between 6-7.
Org de Rac, therefore, does much more than the minimum to be accredited as an organic winery. Some of the minimum provisions internationally include no artificial fertilisers, chemical herbicides, synthetic insecticides and pesticides and no genetically modified products.
Besides the natural fertilisation and increased humus, Org de Rac concentrates on several other aspects of viticulture to increase the process of farming together with nature, such as optimal foliage management (for improved sunlight leading to increased fertility), application of “friendly” cover-crops and organic ground-cover, as well as attracting non-harmful wasps to devour harmful insects.
Org de Rac was one of the first wine farms in the country to be certified as 100%, and is today only one of 18 local wine producers certified for making wines from organically grown grapes. Johan Gerber says that from the beginning, Org de Rac’s motive for organic farming was our belief that the best, healthiest grapes make the best wines. “And if you want healthy grapes that express the characteristics of each variety, creating such a natural environment is the best way to ensure the quality of the grapes for making premium wines. From the farm’s inception, all decisions were guided by nature and the magnificent location.
“The late Mr Nico Bacon, who started Org de Rac, realised that the farm’s exceptional soil and climate, as well as the fact that it is remote and next to a natural wilderness area, justified following organic farming principles,” says Gerber.
“Through our way of natural farming, the terroir’s full expression will be found in the wine range. Org de Rac has never exposed its soil and vineyards to artificial fertilisers and pesticides formulated in a laboratory. A minimum-intervention approach to maintaining soil health and unhindered purity allows the vineyards to maintain nutritional profiles that allow for the delivery of superior-quality grapes from which our wines are made. Organic farming also brings life to the environment, which is why Org de Rac’s vineyards are teeming with non-invasive creatures such as ladybugs and earthworms. At the same time, the farmland is full of birds and mammals that thrive on a truly living wine farm,” Gerber states.
In essence, organic viticulture is about a changed attitude towards the soil. In conventional viticulture, where there is a shortage of nutrients in the ground, chemical fertilisers are used, lowering the soil quality over time. Organic viticulture focuses on increasing biodiversity and revitalising soil life.
Only as recently as 2012 did the European Union introduce a new labelling term for “organic wine”, which may only be used by producers who apply organic viticulture practices and therefore comply with the new rules that limit the use of additives.
Org de Rac boasts a diverse range of premium white and red wines, of which its flagship, Die Waghuis, is a red blend of Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre & Verdelho. Die Waghuis white wine is a blend of Verdelho, Roussanne and Chenin blanc. The cellar produces an excellent MCC as well as a grappa and port.
Re-posted from Emile Joubert, the Wine Goggler. Written by Jacques Dommisse