Ezibusisweni is the Zulu word for the Place of Blessings.
This is what the bottle looks like. I have chosen to use the clear glass as I love the colour of the wine. The logo was designed by the amazing team at Aisle B Design studio.
The sketch artist is the same one (Mqhapheli Spephelo Zungu who I wrote about on this blog in my posting on my first dessert wine, The Ezibusisweni 2008 Straw Wine. He and I grew up together on a farm in KwaZulu-Natal that has now become yet another example of failed land restitution in this beloved country. Click here for the blog on this sad tale.) who did the sketch for my straw wine.
Printing is done by the ever reliable team at Collotype.
It is very important to start harvesting at first light. Once the sun has appeared over those mountains in the background it gets very hot very quickly. Hot grapes lead to, in my experience, a very aggressive fermentation.
The perfect bunch of Chenin Blanc. A balance between sweetness and acidity. The best description I have heard about drinking Chenin Blanc is that it is like eating ruby grapefruit. It starts off sweet and then the acidity comes through.
You just have to have another sip as we are programmed to want sweetness, especially after having it so suddenly removed by the acidity in the wine. I don’t acid to my wine.
In addition to orchestrating the growing of the grapes through the season, I also help harvesting. Luckily I was not being paid like the other staff on how many crates I pick. For starters, they don’t stop to take selfies during work.
We apply BioDynamic methods to way this vineyard is managed. More about this, if you are interested, lower down.
The grapes are then pressed in the basket press. Hector is standing at the basket press on the right hand side. From there the juice goes into the 500 litre barrel via the white bucket that I am holding. We then leave it to ferment and age for 2 years before adding sulphur just prior to bottling. We don’t do anything else to the wine during this time.
We used to add sulphur as the juice went into barrel but thanks to natural wine guru, Isabelle Legeron, we no longer do this.
It is in a BioDynamic vineyard that the wine is made. The cellar is merely a nursery. This vineyard will, along with Spier’s Estate vineyards get BioDynamically certified in early 2015.
What is left in the basket press after we have pressed the juice out we compost and then return this compost to the vineyard.
After 2 years in barrel we rack the wine into a holding tank and then add mined Sulphur as a preservative. The blue flame above is Sulphur burning in the machine en route into the wine.
This wine is the only wine in this country that contains mined sulphur as I am the only one with this machine. There are some non Sulfite wines. The other sulphur is a petrochemical byproduct.
Bubble, bubble, toil and sulphur. Above is a photo of the holding tank immediately after the wine was infused with the mined sulphur. I add 1 gram of Sulphur per hectolitre of wine. Click here for an excellent article on Sulphur by Nicolas Joly. He also writes a wonderful article on agriculture with the punch line “the taste of truth”.
On the front of the bottle it says handcrafted. Filling the bottles with this filler (one of our sons) is a painstaking job when it is done by hand.
Corking follows bottling and here our youngest has teamed up with Hector to place the corks into each bottle.
Our corks, made by Amorin, look like this. They are fully FSC compliant. The three pointed logo is a copy of an engraving done by Marko Pogacnik, ecologist and geomancer, on our farm many years ago when he did work here.
Sti then applies the stickers and we let the wine rest for a few months to get over bottle shock. The bottle I tested this past weekend indicates that the wine is no longer shocked by the bottle.
The Ezibusisweni vineyard was also the first one in the country that was pruned in the Simonit Sirch method. Here, in July 2013, is Livio instructing our team in this vine life-prolonging pruning method. The return on capital calculation on your vineyard looks completely different if you can get at least another 5 years of life out of your vines thanks to this pruning method. Furthermore your wine gets more interesting with age.
Livio, with my colleague Orlando, looking happy with the state of his first vineyard a year after he pruned for the first time. At least 7 wine farms have decided that they also want their vines to live longer and now use Livio. He has only been working in South Africa for two seasons.
Every year one of the farming lessons for the Grade 3 pupils from the Stellenbosch Waldorf School takes place in the vineyard where they all harvest a bay. In many years of having them here none of them has cut a finger with the harvest scissors. It must be because of all the various forms of handwork Steiner/Waldorf pupils do.
After harvest the pupils get into the basket press with their grapes and clean feet to stomp the juice out, which they take home.
Sithandile Ludonga is the man who helps me throughout this process. The white man cannot pronounce his proper Xhosa name so he has rebranded himself Sti. Sti and I in the vineyard with the finished product.
I met Sti exactly 10 years ago. We have worked together since. He started off making sun dried clay bricks for our home (above). By the time construction was finished he could lay bricks, plaster, hang doors and do the plumbing.
In addition to living in a clay house we are fortunate enough to have part of the roof living. Succulent plants use very little water and particularly like flowering in the 42 Celsius days of February.
Another of Sti’s tasks is to check up on our natural swimming pool. This pool uses no chlorine or salt and was designed by Jerome Davis of Aqua Design. There is no point living in a clay house, raising grass fed beef and then bathing in chlorine.
Sti gets a % of sales from each bottle sold out of our tiny cellar.
BioDynamic agriculture is an enhancement to organic agriculture and the central element of this method is that fertility should be created on the farm. This is in stark contrast to conventional farming where the soil destroying fertilisers are produced in huge, energy intensive factories and then trucked for many kilometres to the farm.
The second element is that a farm should be financially, environmentally and socially profitable.
The third element is a recognition that life is an energetic process and so alignment with these life forces is essential to ensure a healthy farm which results in healthy produce. The best way to describe this element of BioDynamic farming is this series of photos (above and below) taken on the same day of each month at the same spot in the vineyard. 22 August 2014.
22 September 2014.
22 October 2014
22 November 2014.
The plant will continue to grow for approximately another 6 weeks and then put its energy into ripening the fruit which then becomes wine.
Where has all of this growth appeared from? At least 1.5 tons of vegetative matter per hectare has appeared from nowhere?
Energy or non matter manifests, through photosynthesis, into matter. When we eat food, the energy in that matter is released and that is what sustains us.
Rudolf Steiner, who gave the impulse to the BioDynamic movement, had tremendous insight into the these energetic processes and so suggested ways to make various fertility enhancing medicines (the 8 preparations) and ways to apply these medicines either to the land or to the compost heaps. For example enhancing the Calcium process is chiefly achieved through the BD 505 Oak Bark preparation.
Another way of thinking about this element of BioDynamics is to think about full moon and it’s effect on the oceans. Surfers and spring tide. Plants are 97% water and are accordingly also affected. The moon is not the only celestial body and therefore the other bodies also have an effect on the earth.
Energy is streaming into earth from above just like waves are always coming to the shore. Are you on the right surfboard? Or are you a non swimmer?
It was such a long time ago that you saw the bottle that I needed to put this photo in as a reminder. If you are going to drink the wine, please decant it for at least 15 minutes before drinking. It/she needs time to open up. Contact me if you want to buy any bottles.
Alternatively come to the farm for a real food safari and we can discuss these matters in more depth and I can show you how agriculture can heal the earth.