A leading biodynamic winemaker in South Africa has said the industry needs to change the way it talks about the practice if it hopes to engage more with sustainability-conscious producers, retailers and consumers. 

Johan Reyneke from Reyneke Wines (pictured) was speaking at a biodynamic and organic event alongside Jasper Raats at Raats’ Longridge Estate in Stellenbosch, ahead of Cape Wine 2022. 

The pair, who both practise biodynamic farming, said the method should be aligned with self-sufficiency and regenerative agriculture. 

“It is becoming more important to be self-sufficient as prices rise and the rand is weak,” Reyneke explained as he also highlighted global headwinds. “The war in Ukraine has pushed up fertiliser prices, for example.”

Reyneke said people “get caught up with talk of moon phases and the preparations” when it comes to biodynamic farming, but he stressed that the self-sufficient element is important. 

“When it started, people pushed the esoteric side. Now people still use these preparations but instead of it being about a cosmic force, it’s about microbial activity,” he explained. “We need to simplify biodynmaics and give people an easier understanding of what it’s about.”

He also talked about the waste associated with winemaking and said being biodynamic helps to “take away wastefulness”. 

While both Raats and Reyneke said converting a farm to either biodynamic or organic represents risks in the short-term, better yields, fruit quality and soil quality are among the long-term gains. 

“The riskiest time is when you convert for the simple reason that the soil is ‘dead’,” explained Raats. “There are ways to limit risk, but it takes financial investment.”

The pair said expensive certification and the need to use certifying bodies from outside the country is a problem, with some producers farming organically or biodynamically but deciding not to seek certification. 

Looking forward, Reyneke said biodynamic farming is “unstoppable” as a force to deal with climate change. He also pointed out that both retailers and consumers are motivated by ethical brands. 

“You have to consider the marketplace when assessing risk,” he said. “This can give you advantages in markets where buyers value regenerative farming measures, therefore risk is reduced when it comes to getting into these markets.”

Elsewhere, packaging continues to be under the microscope in terms of sustainability and Reyneke said that after being called out on bottle weight, his company has done extensive research into finding the best solution. He said he is investigating carbon footprints attached to lightweight bottles, but also taking into account where bottles are made and how much recycled glass they contain. 

He said he is currently in talks with retailers to explore carton formats for the UK market.