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Organics – is it a load of old compost?

Food24 expert and columnist Michael Olivier explores the serious business of organic wine.

by: Michael Olivier | 17 Aug 2007

In days gone by organic was pure fringe stuff. Embraced by your unusual and different sister, the one without the bra, the unshaven armpits, the Laura Ashley print full length skirt and the plastic sandals..

Nowadays organics is big business and the large supermarket groups in this country are taking it seriously.

The public too is taking organics seriously what with global warming front of mind; we want to be sure that Mother Earth is looked after for our children and grandchildren and indeed beyond.

How do you make organic wine
Organic means that no chemicals, pesticides or herbicides were used in the growing of the grapes. Only compost and organic materials are used, with indigenous vegetation for mulching.

No artificial fertilizers and pesticides, underground steaming devises are used to counter weeds, armies of ducks in vineyards remove snails, and little boxes of ladybird beetles bought from a breeder in Pretoria annihilate mielie bug and other insecty pests. Early budding and flowering over crops attract insects and disease keeping them off vines.

It's serious stuff, but there are compensations. Your soil looks like Christmas pudding and is rich and fertile, it crawls with all sorts of do-good insects and creatures like earthworms.

Cellar practices ensure very low usage of sulphur and monitored and audited waste practices. The sulphur dioxide is half that of conventional wines and certain chemicals are forbidden. Waste products such as skins and pips are composted for use in the soil. Water usage in the cellar is audited and then returned to the lands as irrigation. Chemicals for cleaning are kept to a minimum and steam is preferred as a sterilizer

Stellar Organics Winery
Stellar Organics take its wines very seriously. I first tasted a Stellar Organics two year old Colombar, which was fabulous. I was surprised as Colombar is usually a wine one drinks before the presses have been washed out, yet this one had lasted. I had to find out more.

Stellar Organics Winery is supervised and certified by SKAL International, an organic inspection body and a slew of others. It is situated 275 km north of Cape Town on the road to Namibia. Dudley Wilson processes organic grapes from farms straddling the northern boundary of the Olifants River wine region and Namaqualand.

This is an area famous for its spring flowers and is also the only semi-arid Biosphere hotspot in the world.

t is also the first vineyard and cellar to receive the highly sought after Fairtrade accreditation. As a result Stellar undertakes to empower its economically disadvantaged workers and ensure that a fair price is paid for the product along the whole supply chain. A percentage of the wholesale price of the wine is paid directly back to the Stellar Fairtrade Workers' Trust.

Stellar's Sensory Collection is beautifully labelled with specially commissioned labels to match specific varietal wines allowing the wine drinker to visually "taste" the wine before opening it.

The Stellar Range consists of a selection of varietal and blended wines, with a no sulphur added Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot, while the 'Live a Little' early release easy drinking range shows a wonderful element of fun in easy generous quaffers. Many of the wines are in screwcaps – hooray! So easy on a picnic!

For me Stellar Organics is about excellence in wine first, that it is organic is an added and beneficial bonus.

Michael Olivier trained at The London Cordon Bleu Cookery School and is a well known food and wine fundi. He convenes the Diners Club Wine List of the Year Awards with his friend Michael Bamfield-Duggan. To find our more about Michael and tap into his vast knowledge go to

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