Biodynamic Winemaking: the What the Who the How
Beautifully set between wild floral gardens and sweeping vineyards, Avondale Estate in Paarl is one of South Africa's leading biodynamic vineyards.
In an effort to 'awaken and enliven co-creative relationships between humans and the earth, biodynamic farming seeks to transform the practice and culture of agriculture'. According to the Biodynamic Association, this method is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition. Extending to the art of winemaking too, specific biodynamic winemaking practices are used in unison to ensure that – from seed to picking – the winemaking process and final product are a true manifestation of the soil, the fruit, and the natural ecosystem.
Beautifully set between wild floral gardens and sweeping vineyards, Avondale Estate in Paarl is one of South Africa's leading biodynamic vineyards. Following the ethos of Terra Est Vita, meaning ‘Soil is Life’, Avondale endeavours to create a living system where soil, water and energy; plants, animals and people; and buildings are part of a complex web of relationships and networks, interconnected and interdependent. With winemaker Cornè Marais at the helm, the wines are produced with only minimal intervention, meaning that the juice you're imbibing is resonant of the land – not man's interposition. The result? Rich, complex wines that exude full, fruit-forward flavour, unique minerality, and a delicious, lengthy finish.
Producing 'slow wines', if you will, Avondale commits itself to nurturing healthy, balanced vineyards, allowing the grapes to grow independent of unhealthy pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Instead, an array of animals are used in the winemaking process, from the most useful and well-disciplined ducks that get picked up and dropped off on a daily basis to rid the vines of insects, to the cows, horses and sheep that each contribute their own trusty service to the soil and land. All of this combines in a series of natually-made wines, including the acclaimed Armilla Blanc de Blancs, the Cyclus that bursts with flavour, and the beyond exceptional Samsara, a full-bodied Syrah that can be kept for years to come (if you have the willpower).
Taking it a step further, Avondale is the first winery in South Africa to introduce clay qvevri (pronounced 'kwe-vree') into the cellar. Originally hailing from Georgia, these egg-shaped earthenware vessels are used for fermenting and ageing wine, sealed and buried in the ground; yet another drawcard to paying the farm a visit.
In comparison to traditional farming, biodynamic farming calls for sometimes strange compost practices. For example, cow horns are stuffed with compost and buried in the ground at certain points in the vineyard, and later excavated in the summer season. Avondale also intently follows the lunar cycle: the role of the moon in its waxing and waning period is believed to place great emphasis on the resultant produce. Even the various stages of growth and harvest follow a particular practice according to the Earth's four elements: according to Vicki Denig's article 'Biodynamic Wine, Explained', fruit days are meant for harvesting, leaf days for watering, and root days for pruning. On flower days, the vineyard is left alone.
Enjoy a winetasting in Avondale's gabled tasting room, and a cellar tour from the knowledgable staff by prior arrangement (the clay qvevri and terracotta fermenting pots are worth the journey in itself).