Laibach – Organic Wines With Personality.

Klapmuts Road
P.O. Box 7109

Tel: +27 21 88 44 511


On the slopes of the Simonsberg just 10 kilometers before Stellenbosch on the R 44 (Klapmuts Road) lies a farm which has been converting to organic farming practices since the beginning of this century…Laibach Vineyards.

This conversion was deemed essential by the owners if their wines were to truly reflect their place of origin…which all great wines should!

Their motto of  “Treat every vine, every bunch and every berry with absolute affection and
you will get the best wine, most reflected of your “terroir” speaks volumes for the attitude of the people involved with this estate.

If you’re not familiar with the name Laibach, you might recognise the brand Ladybird.

This wine that is making the property famous is a Bordeaux-style red blend made from organically grown grapes. It sports striking packaging – the capsule is red with black dots à la the wings of a ladybird.

Made for the first time in 2003, the 2007 Ladybird Red won best red at the inaugural Nedbank Green Wine Awards in 2009. The currently available 2009 vintage rated 3½ Stars at the 2010 Green Wine Awards and sells for R85 a bottle from the tasting room.

There is also a Ladybird White, the 2010 being the first vintage of this wine officially certified organic is to be released around Feb 2012 and will sell for R63 a bottle from the farm. If you do not want to wait that long the 2009 vintage, available now, might not be certified organic but was grown and made under exactly the same conditions as the Ladybird Red.

Both these wines are rated 4 stars in the 2011 John Platter wine guide.

The Red Ladybird is a wonderful wine but I am of the opinion that the White Ladybird will surpass even the red in popularity over time. A blend of chardonnay, chenin and viognier, it is velvety smooth with creamy apricot fruit and just enough acidity to bring it all together into a mouth watering symphony of flavours. No sulphur is used during the wine making process for both the above wines(just a little added at bottling) so for all people with sulphur allergies, these wines are for you.

Both the above wines make up around 50% of Laibach’s total production.

Laibach are also making an organic merlot exclusively for Woolworths to be released around October this year and both Woolworths and Laibach are very excited about this one.

Think of it this way, the Claypot Merlot(flagship) 2009 is one of only five wines to be rated 4 Stars or better by Wine magazine. The standard label 2007 was also one of only five wines to rate 4 Stars or better in the same magazine. In fact, Laibach has always been right at the top of the pile when it comes to Merlot ever since the 2003 was rated 4½ Stars, effectively making it the best merlot overall out of the 69 examples assessed from that vintage.

In other words, they arguably make the best merlot in the country, and now they are very excited about the Woolworths Organic Merlot…that’s good enough for me!

There are 42ha under vineyard and these will all be officially organic by 2012, bar a small portion that cannot qualify on the basis of being within 15m of conventionally farmed neighbours.

If you remember my earlier post re comparison of organic vs conventional vineyards…these are the vineyards, a picture of health and vitality in the middle of winter!

It was not only to obtain a true reflection of the terroir that Laibach decided to convert to organic farming. Another very important reason was the elimination of toxic agricultural chemicals from the surface and groundwater supplies, the soil, the atmosphere and in the wine itself.

To grow organic grapes without herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers was initially a huge challenge for them as, initially, a reduction in crop yield was inevitable. However, through

  • soil building practices like growing of cover crops during winter to replenish lost nutrients
  • recycling of manures and other wastes through composting, and
  • the revitalization of soil with organic matter

they created soils capable of sustaining production levels without sacrificing economic concerns.

Hence the availability of great wines at competitive prices that are not harmful to ourselves or our planet.

The people at Laibach see themselves as traditionalists. They make wine with minimal intervention to show what the special Simonsberg-Stellenbosch deep red soils can produce. They use no irrigation at all on the farm and rely on their deep clay soil to keep the roots cool and happy.

The owner is Dr. Petra Laibach-Kuehner who lives in Germany. She visited South Africa over Easter 1994 for the first time and immediately fell in love with the country and decided to acquire the wine farm on behalf of her late father. As a biologist and physician she was the driving force behind the conversion of Laibach to organic and sustainable farming methods.

The husband and wife team of Michael(viticulturist) and Anelle Malherbe run the  day to day business of the farm. Michael is fanatical about his vineyards, which I can vouch for, as on both my visits to the vineyard to compile this article, it was commonplace to see him constantly riding up and down the vineyards on his motorbike watching every workers move and checking every vine.

Francois van Zyl looks after the wine making and the cellar. He is a no-nonsense type of guy(with a mischevious glint in his eye) who is not afraid to speak his mind even(or especially) if it does not conform to conventional thinking.

One of his more interesting statements being:  “People think Merlot is an easy-drinking wine, but that would be like going out with a brainless blonde – fine for a short while but ultimately you have to have something to talk about. It’s important that a wine has personality too.”

This sums up Laibach’s wines perfectly:

WINES WITH PERSONALITY – try them, you won’t be disappointed.

Photographs courtesy of Bellananda

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