Straw wine

Our online shop is open

A massive thanks to Yolande, in the middle in the photo below, and her husband Francois for enabling this. It feels like we are growing up. All you need to do is click on SHOP NOW and follow the instructions.

To celebrate we have released our salami sticks. As with all our butchery products we don’t cancer inducing nitrates and nitrites. Currently the only butchery in the land not adding these chemicals.

Ruvarashe and Phello are showing off our salami sticks which come in packs of 150 grams. The packets are filled with Nitrogen gas which keeps the product room temperature stable for 3 months. We use our pigs to make the salami as well as our organic Shiraz wine from the farm. Our beef and chicken products are also available online as well my Ezibusisweni Straw Wine.

The salt in all our products is from Khoisan and we also use it for our animals in their free choice mineral licks.



24 February 2018


My first white wine. Ezibusisweni Chenin Blanc 2012



Ezibusisweni is the Zulu word for the Place of Blessings.

end product, 1

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.

pre sunrise harvest

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.

perfect bunch

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.

more chenin in crate

The grapes are chilled overnight.filling barrels

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.

grape waste for compost

What is left in the basket press after we have pressed the juice out we compost and then return this compost to the vineyard.

S burning bright

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 S

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”.

hamish filling bottles

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.

joshua and hector corking

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 sticking stickers

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.

livio august 2013

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 and orlando, sept 2014

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.

grade 3 collecting

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.

grade 3 stomping

After harvest the pupils get into the basket press with their grapes and clean feet to stomp the juice out, which they take home.

sti and I in vineyard

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.

sti making bricks, Jan 2015

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.

rooftop garden

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.

sti cleaning pool

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.

22 august 2014

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 September 2014.

22 october 2014

22 October 2014

22 november 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?

end product, 2


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.



Ezibusisweni Straw Wine

How it started.

Back in 2005 whilst we were housebuilding (out of clay, the subject of an imminent blog) and starting to develop our garden along permaculture and biodynamic principles under the guidance of Avice Hindmarch, we also decided to learn Italian. In Stellenbosch there is only one Italian teacher worth having and that is Simonetta dalla Cia. We were soon befriended by her husband the genial connoisseur, Giorgio. At that time Avice decided to revive an abandoned 3 Hectare Chenin Blanc vineyard close to our building site. Giorgio determined that I learn about winemaking as he understood there was no money in growing grapes. He also said that it would be boring to produce just another organic Chenin Blanc and that I should make straw wine.


Ezibusisweni Chenin Blanc vineyard

Home of Ezibusisweni Straw Wine



What is straw wine exactly?

I have learnt to suppress a smile when asked how you make wine from straw. It is a wine made from grapes that have been dried to intensify the flavour and sweetness. Depending on which country you are in your Passito in Italy or Schilfwein in Austria or Strohwein in Germany or Slamove vino in Czech or Vin de Paille in France will be made from different grapes dried differently in each country. There are a handful of producers in this country and the few I have visited have dried their grapes on nylon bird netting and metal chicken wire!!! Our grapes are dried on racks covered with straw that we harvest on our farm. See below


Packing Chenin Blanc Grapes onto straw racks

Julian packing Chenin Blanc grapes onto straw racks


 History of the vineyard

Planted by the previous owner in 1983 and 1984 and then conventionally farmed for 20 years until abandonment. Heavily irrigated and fed all the cides (herbicides, larvacides, pesticides, fungicides, nematicides etc etc. Cide is the Latin word for killing), none of which are on the side of the farmer or the soil or the plant. It is fair to say that this was a tired vineyard. Through biodynamic management the vigour of the vines has improved and I think the wines are becoming more interesting every year.


Who helped me

If it was not for Avice Hindmarch, seen below driving the tractor at age 67 whilst the youngsters are off loading compost into the vineyard,

Avice Hindmarch driving the tractor at Ezibusisweni, age 67.

Avice Hindmarch driving the tractor at Ezibusisweni, age 67.

I would never have had the winemaking discussion with Giorgio dalla Cia. Fortunately for me I also knew Adi Badenhorst from university days and he along with Spier’s Cellar Master Frans Smit helped me tremendously. Finally Duimpie Baily did what he could with the wine authorities to make sure that I could get through all the legalities. Thanks again to you all.


Feeding and nurturing the vineyard.

Winemaking happens in the vineyard although most of today’s viticultural practices are so mutilating to the grape that the winemaker is burdened in the cellar to produce wine from these grapes.

Because we don’t irrigate (Surely irrigation is one of the factors negating terroir?) we have to make sure that first our soils absorb all the rain and that second the vines roots go as deep as they are capable of doing. Biologically active soils enable the above.

with paultjie and hairy vetch cover crop

with paultjie and hairy vetch cover crop

First we plant a variety of crops as cover crops, (another blog to follow on vineyard cover cropping) which bring various nutrients to the vine roots as well as break up the hard ground. Second we graze our cattle in the high density method, an enormous energetic and manure stimulus for the land. Third we apply a small amount of Talborne compost and our own vermicompost to each vine. Fourth we apply as  folio spray the PFPE from BioEarth to which we have added a little of our own Cow Pat Pit/Barrel compost. Finally we apply the BD 500 horn manure preparation three times a year. See photo below of me stirring the BD500 before spraying onto the vineyard.

stirring the BD500

stirring the BD500

The process of making it

Our way of making straw wine is very simple indeed. We wait for the grapes to get to a Brix count of 22.5 and then harvest on the fruit day (according to the biodynamic calendar developed by Maria Thun) closest to that sugar level. The grapes go onto the straw covered racks for about a month.

At a Brix of 48 we then crush them with a handcrusher made by Helmut Amos of Magitec,


leave them overnight in a bin after being sprayed with SO2 of 60ppm and then the next day we press the grapes in a barrel press. The juice then goes into 225 litre French oak barrels. We usually bottle about 2 years later.

We also compost the grape waste with our chicken manure and the Bio Earth DDS innoculant. Here it is being removed from the hand operated barrel press.


What does Ezibusisweni mean?

Ezibusisweni is a Zulu word meaning “The Place of Blessings”. It refers to the area where we built our clay home, established our garden and the vineyard.


The bottling process

The bottling and the corking and labeling is all done by hand. Below is a photo of the three bottle manual bottler on the left and the hand operated corker on the right.

hand bottler and crusher at Ezibusisweni

hand bottler and crusher at Ezibusisweni


Where all the work takes place.

Inside a cob building at Ezibusisweni watched over by angels.

The Angels looking down on the winemaking at Ezibusisweni

The Angels looking down on the winemaking at Ezibusisweni


What the bottle looks like?

There are only 2280 of these beauties with each bottle numbered by hand.

Ezibusisweni Straw Wine 2008 bottles

Ezibusisweni Straw Wine 2008 bottles



More about the lady on the front.

My oldest friend, Mqapheli Enoch Zungu, is apart from being a graphic designer also an accomplished artist whose best work I think is in pencil.

This is him below

Artist Mqapheli Enoch Zungu

Artist Mqapheli Enoch Zungu


This is his sketch that now adorns the bottles

Mqapheli pencil illustration for Ezibusisweni Wines

Mqapheli pencil illustration for Ezibusisweni Wines


Where can you buy it?

At this stage directly from me. Contact details on the blog’s contact page.



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