Waterkloof in Somerset West became a Biodiversity & Wine Initiative Champion in 2008 and this year began the process towards official accreditation as a biodynamic farm. One of the most visible differences to conventional farming is the eight Percheron horses used instead of tractors to plough, compost, spray and harvest the vineyards.
Viticulturist Christiaan Loots says a 800kg Percheron can pull 1.6 tons and can operate at 3.8km per hour for eight hours compared to a tractor which works at 4km per hour. Less soil compacting, less damage to vines and reduced carbon emissions. It’s a wonder that all farms don’t go this route.
A tour of the vineyards this past Friday was followed by lunch with Waterkloof owner and UK wine importer and distributor Paul Boutinot, who is not a fan of wine competitions. He reluctantly entered the Circumstance Chenin Blanc 2009 into the Chenin Blanc Challenge 2011 as convened by the now defunct Wine magazine on the basis that he thought it had enough “immediacy, inherent quality and ability to age” to impress the judges but was aghast when it rated 1 Star. “Apparently the worst Chenin in the country,” he quips.
Well, it’s not the worst Chenin in the country. The wine currently shows a flintiness on the nose while the palate possesses pure fruit and a great line of acidity – score: 17/20. There’s white and yellow fruit before a savoury finish. I was a judge on that panel and I wish I could explain what happened but I can’t. The same wine got the Regional Trophy for Best South African White Single Varietal over £10 at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2011 and it just goes to show that wine assessment is not a science and anybody who demands that it should be is foolish.