Johan Reyneke’s family purchased a rundown property called Uitzicht in 1988. This is in the heart of South Africa’s Cape winelands, in the Polkadraai Hills to the west of Stellenbosch. After Johan took over from his mother he made the first wines under the Reyneke label in 1998.
Uitzicht was initially farmed using convention methods. Self taught as a winemaker, Reyneke had studied environmental philosophy at University and this, together with an encounter with the wines from biodynamic guru Nicholas Joly, gave him the impetus and determination to move to natural methods of wine growing for his Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage and Sauvignon Blanc.
His first experiments with organics were unsuccessful but Reyneke persevered. He went fully organic in 2001 and commenced biodynamic conversion in 2003. This process took a further three years to complete and Uitzicht is now certified as organic and biodynamic and has grown to 35 hectares. Reyneke is regarded as a biodynamic pioneer in South Africa, offers advice to other wineries and is a member of the prestigious “return to terroir” group of wine growers.
What of this super-sauvignon? All the auspices are good; as well as biodynamics careful winemaking techniques are employed to produce a premium white wine that demonstrates a clear sense of place. Wild yeasts are used for low-temperature fermentation in stainless steel and the wine is left to mature for six months on the lees. In the cellar there is no addition of enzymes or fining, racking is timed to the biodynamic calendar and the use of sulphur as a necessary preservative is admirably low.
A pale yellow-gold in colour, explore those aromatics before taking that first sip – there are nettles, elderflower, citrus and gooseberry to linger over. The first taste gives an immediate impression of balance – zesty acidity and nicely restrained alcohol. Layered pure fruit flavours are presented with satisfying intensity, with nothing raw or sweaty and no oak to get in the way. Green fruits – greengage and gooseberry – are interleaved with that herbaceous character so typical of Sauvignon Blanc. Slightly pétillant, there’s elegance, understatement and a long dry finish to complete the package. Style wise, this wine really shows just what South Africa can do with this grape it’s in the right hands – it sits nearer to Sancerre’s elegance than New Zealand’s pungency.
Drinking perfectly now and over the next year or so, try it either as an apéritif or with shellfish. I matched it with a simple open sandwich. Fresh homemade bread with organic free range chicken in light mayonnaise topped off with a salad garnish made for a delicious pairing.
Coda: the workers at Reyneke own a 24% share in the farm and take advantage of winemaking, marketing and business training as part of a Black Empowerment project. How cool is that?
A great advert for biodynamics and terrific value too, this is a wine likely to gain a deserved cult following. Meanwhile I’ll be looking out for Reyneke’s red wines as well.