Biodynamic producer now making some of South Africa's best wines, Stellenbosch revisited part 3

Johan Reyneke

Reyneke was one of my best experiences in Stellenbosch – and this was on a trip filled with good visits. I’d read quite a bit about Johan Reyneke and tasted some of the wines before, but I’d never met him, so there was some anticipation.

The Reyneke estate is famous for being South Africa’s only certified biodynamic wine farm. Sometimes, though, the attention that this brings can sometimes take people’s focus off the wines themselves. While I’m very interested in biodynamics, I didn’t want this way of farming to be the story of the visit. I wanted to understand the vineyard, the people behind the wines, and of course the wines themselves.

Reyneke is part of the Vinimark group, and winemaking is overseen by Rudiger Gretschel. ‘A good fermentation and a clean malolactic fermentation are crucial to making good wine,’ says Rudiger.  He uses only natural fermentations, with no enzymes, but does add some vitamins/nutrients to help the yeasts. The fermentations all take place in older casks. 

Rudiger Gretschel

With his natural ferments, Rudiger says that he doesn’t just sit still, but actively works to make sure that the right yeasts carry out the fermentation. ‘I keep everything reductive, which means that you don’t get Kloeckera, which makes the fermentation start with acetone,’ he says. ‘Candida does this too. The problem is that they chow away most of your must nutrients, so for the ferment we work reductively and hope that we get a clean start with Saccharomyces cerevisiae.’ 

‘Fermentation dynamics are very important,’ he adds. ‘If you have a good ferment you are 80% there. That’s why I have started working with vitamins and nutrients, such as magnesium.’

The impression I had here is of an authentic producer, beginning to make some really compelling wines. There’s a sense of energy at Reyneke, and this is now being transmitted to the wines.

‘By changing the soil life and structure we are starting to change the grape composition,’ says Rudiger. ‘It is something South Africans should be looking into more, rather than mean temperatures.’ 


Reyneke Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Stellenbosch, South Africa
This spent 6 months in the cask, and then the lees started to turn, so it was taken out of the cask and bottled shortly after. 12% alcohol, 6 g acid, partial malolactic. Taut and focused with lovely fresh citrus, pear and apple notes, as well as some complex herby characters. Textured, mineral and stylish.  91/100

Reyneke Chenin Blanc 2010 Stellenbosch, South Africa
‘I love the Chenin thing in South Africa at the moment,’ says Rudiger Gretschel. ‘Our take is a bit more traditional than some.’ Wonderful fresh apple and pear character with good acidity. Crisp, with nice appley character. So distinctive. A bit of white peach, too. Restraint and power here. 93/100   

Reyneke Reserve White 2010 Stellenbosch, South Africa
This is a varietal Sauvignon Blanc, which spends 18 months in oak, 80% of which is new. Taut, mineral and expressive nose. The palate has high acidity and minerals, with lovely precision and intensity. There’s a hint of matchstick alongside the grapefruit and tangerine fruit. Some savouriness, too. 94/100 

Reyneke Reserve White 2009 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Some richer, nutty, toasty notes here but it is still super-fresh and mineral. Tingly, lively. Brilliantly mineral and complex with some richness but also vibrancy and warm oak and matchstick characters. Mandarin, tangerine and grapefruit flavours. Will age beautifully. 94/100 

Reyneke Syrah 2010 Stellenbosch, South Africa 
First release of Syrah: this used to end up in the Cornerstone. Made with a combination of submerged cap and whole bunch. Typically they will have 35% whole bunch, foot trodden and then crushed fruit over this. Meaty, fresh and perfumed with violet, pepper and meaty notes. The palate is fresh and peppery with good acid and generous, fleshy black cherry fruit. Just brilliant. 94/100

Reyneke Cornerstone 2010 Stellenbosch, South Africa 
A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc. Very fresh and bright with lovely blackcurrant fruit. Grippy structure with lovely precision and real purity of fruit. Lively, pure and structured. 93/100 

Reyneke Reserve Red 2008 Stellenbosch, South Africa
This was a poor vintage in South Africa so they bought more oak and turned up the toasting level. 90% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Intense, meaty, spicy nose wth some roasted notes. Rich, intense and meaty. The palate is rich, dense and spicy with some noticeable oak. Real power and structure and delicious black fruit, as well as a bit of olive. 93/100 

Reyneke Reserve Red 2009 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Lovely meaty, structured wine with good acidity. Fresh, lively and peppery with intense fruit. Real purity and elegance as well as power. Brilliantly complex, this has high acidity and lovely structure. An incredible effort. 96/100 

Reyneke Reserve Red 2001 Stellenbosch, South Africa
A bit of a blast from the past, made with a broom that was purchased at a coop and then had its bristles cut off. Bovril and furniture polish notes on the nose with some volatile notes. Savoury, earthy, spicy palate is much fresher than the nose suggests. Nice structure. 88/100 


Part 1, Waterkloof
Part 2, Waterford
part 3, Reyneke
Part 4, Kanonkop
Part 5, Rustenberg
Part 6, Meerlust
Part 7, Delheim
Part 8, Neil Ellis

Wines tasted 03/12  
Find these wines with


Back to top