Frank Meaker of Org de Rac on the growing of vegan wine

Tuesday, 29 October, 2019
Org de Rac
Winemaker Profile: Frank Meaker

How did you get to where you are today?

I studied winemaking and viticulture at Elsenburg and have been working in the wine industry for over four decades, so I guess I can apply for an Old Vine sticker. My professional life included working at the Bergkelder of the former Distillers Corporation, stints in Champagne, France and Napa in California and Bordeaux. In Stellenbosch I managed Blaauwklippen Estate followed by periods at Trawal in the Olifantsrivier region and in Wellington I worked at Bovlei Winery before coming to Org de Rac.

Your thoughts on the vegan wine trend, and have you always made wine this way? If so, why?

Personally I won’t be doing vegan soon as a braai and a piece of French cheese is part of my DNA. But anybody in the food and drinks business would be foolish not to give it consideration. The growth of veganism among the young crowd is a reality. 25 per cent of all Americans between 25 and 34 are either vegan or vegetarian. Forbes and The Economist declared 2019 the Year of Veganism. My own kids turned vegan along with many of their peers. It is a reality tied with the concern for the environment and respect for one’s own health. And it is growing.

Org de Rac did not set out to specifically make vegan wine. But due to our organic approach in the vineyard we cut out as many additives in the winemaking process which happened to include animal-based fining agents.

Future for vegan wines in SA – will they all be vegan eventually?

This I can’t say, but I do know that two years ago vegan was deemed a minority sect and today most of the winemaking fraternity is aware of this segment of the customer-base and know that it is growing. I don’t think all wines will ever be vegan, but the number of producers choosing that option or making customers aware of their vegan status is growing.

 The vine on the Org de Rac label – is there a story to it?

Vitisvinifera – the most beautiful plant in the world. It is what we are and where our wines come from. It deserves pride of place, and that is the label.

Tell us about Org de Rac – what makes it such a special site?

We lie just outside Piketberg, in isolation next to the Berg River. We have some of the oldest soil compositions in the world formed 80m years ago with the shifting of teutonic plates in the region. Beautiful soils of sandstone and clay, especially rich in iron, hence the characteristic red colour.  We are the most northerly winery in South Africa’s Swartland region.Warm, dry summers cooled by Atlantic Ocean of West Coast some 50km away.Winter rainfall of average 450mm. The climate and topography gives us balance and even ripening, and we find many varieties suited to this area. From Chardonnay and Cabernet, to Shiraz, Roussanne and Verdelho.

You are one of the original organic wine farms, why the decision to farm this way?

Organic farming is not new – this was the way everyone farmed sixty years ago before the chemical companies began punting fertilizers and pesticides as a quick fix solution. From the very beginning our ethos was one of allowing the vines to grow as naturally as possible. No chemical fertilizers, no bug-sprays. Only natural fertilizers are added to the soils and we have predating critters preying on the pests. The result, I believe, is better expression in the grapes that are true living things. And I believe you’ll see it in the wines.

Your grandfather was the legendary Paul Sauer, what does this mean to you – and does it inform your winemaking or grape growing in any way?

He was one of the country’s great wine personalities, not only as farmer at Kanonkop but in advocating the responsible use and appreciation of wine. As a kid I’d go out to the farm with him, walking the vineyards and the cellar, tasting from the tanks and barrels with him. And the awe and respect he showed for wine truly inspired me – I’ve never wanted to do anything else.

Outside of wine and farming – what are your passions? Where can we find you in your time off?

I am a news and current affairs junky, so spend a lot of time reading-up on the news, as well as delving into history. Happiest with a book or a magazine. And then there is music….rock and blues. If I am not listening to it, I am trying to attend a good gig whenever possible.

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Frank Meaker, Org de Rac cellarmaster
Frank Meaker, Org de Rac cellarmaster

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