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An Interview with Nadia Langenegger of WATERKLOOF WINES on Biodynamic winemaking

Waterkloof was born in the dynamic and unpredictable forces of nature in the centre of the Hottentots-Holland and Helderberg mountains’ embrace. With its highest point at 300 metres above sea level and a scant four kilometres from the False Bay coast

A combination of destiny and good judgement brought winemaker Nadia Langenegger, to Waterkloof and it is here were that she learned the essential aspects of quality vines and wines. Having been with Waterkloof since the opening of the cellar in 2009, she can genuinely say that she knows every square inch of vineyard on the farm like the palm of her hand and the tremendous potential that lies within it.

Living and work in harmony with nature are to acknowledge, respect and promote its intrinsic value. She firmly believes in the biodynamic and organic philosophies of Waterkloof.

I raised a few questions to the winemaker, Nadia Langenegger:

Q)  Do all wine naturally contain sulphite and why, is it a natural occurrence in making wine?
A)  Yes, they do but only in very small quantities. The yeast produces sulphites as a by-product during the course of fermentation.

Q)  Would you describe organic wines as natural wines?  
A)  “The term natural wine is still a bit grey but when the organic wine is fermented by using the indigenous yeast from the vineyard then yes. You are still allowed to inoculate with specific yeast strains when certified organic.”

Q)  As a wine producer – would you say there is a particular grape variety that lends itself best to natural/ organic wine making styles? 
A)  “There are varietals that are easier to work with when making natural wine. Rhone varietals often has higher pH levels which can make natural winemaking more difficult as spoilage bacterial also often enjoy the same pH level. The way to go about that is to just work really clean in the winery and taste the wine often.”

Q)  Who is the greatest influence, supporter and role model in natural/organic wine making in South Africa?
A)  “I have always admired Reyneke Wines as they go above and beyond to work naturally in their vineyards and in harmony with nature. Johan is also a kind and gentle soul- leading his team from behind.”

Q)  Would you say there are more struggles in natural/organic winemaking as in conventional wine making? Or just different struggles?
A)  “In my opinion – different struggles as all wineries are unique, but in natural winemaking your hygiene needs to be a step above the rest. Your risks are higher- we are often referred to as cowboy winemakers.”

Q)  Cellaring natural/organic wines. Do organic/natural wine making styles affect the cellaring potential on a wine?
A)  “Organically grown vineyards often yield lower quantities. With this you have smaller berries with more concentration – these berries often have more tannins which improves your ageing potential. From there on it depends on many things which the winemaker would have done in the winery. I do believe that our wines can keep for a longer time with our low yields and with the way that we make our wines.”