Louis Boutinot Shares Waterkloof’s Biodynamic Story - Boutinot


At every portfolio tasting since he sold Boutinot, I’m asked by customers how Paul is enjoying retirement. It does make me smile! For those who haven’t seen him for a while, I can confirm that both he and the extension of his being (Waterkloof) are alive and kicking.

Those who know him will be well aware that in terms of taste in wine, he’s more Old World than New. So, a decade ago, when the first harvest began on his windswept vineyard overlooking False Bay in South Africa, eyebrows were raised in the trade and indeed at the Boutinot dinner table.

“I chose Waterkloof for site-specific reasons. It just happened to be in South Africa, just as Romanée-Conti just happens to be in France. If I went back in time I would make the same decision… only quicker! We have worked hard, learned and improved over the last decade, with more still to come,” he says.

Since then we have been busy, especially the inspirational Christiaan Loots and his vineyard team, in transforming the vineyards to increase biodiversity and set us on course for biodynamic conversion.

“Back in 2005, aside from the vineyard, the rest of the farm – which is now covered in hundreds of wild indigenous flower species – was dominated by alien tree species, such as oak and pine,” recalls Loots. “The first stage was to remove these trees and to try and help create an environment where The Western Cape’s original biodiversity (including a few peacocks) could thrive.”

Waterkloof was a vineyard site with raw potential, but the vines had been conventionally managed, which brought with them the associated conventional problems. The usual methods to control pests and viruses in the vines had been repeatedly unsuccessful, so we were forced to think outside the box. We began farming organically in 2006 and introduced biodynamic methods as of 2008 – cow horns filled with manure and all.

By definition, a biodynamic farm is one where the soil is without conventional problems. Most importantly, the soil needs carbon – something that today’s non-biodynamic vineyards rarely have. We began to notice real benefits from 2011.

The first day when our horses ploughed the soil, the first time we sprayed the vines using our own horse carts and the first time we brought 960 kilograms of grapes per horse into the cellar, will always be stand-out memories for me. But my very best and proudest moment to date is the 10th harvest!”

Since then we’ve been as hard at it as ever. An increased awareness and appreciation of the character, individuality and compelling value to be found from South Africa lends support to the notion that the old sommelier-importer-farmer-winemaker from Stockport still has a few tricks left up his sleeve.

One chapter ends, another begins.

Discover more about Waterkloof and its wines here

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