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L'Equinox Wines

There has never been a better time than the present to be making wine in the Swartland region of South Africa. Home to incredible vineyards, both young and old, the region has gone from being somewhat left in the past to being propelled into the future in just two decades. The 2000s saw the ‘Swartland Revolution’ take place, when growers and winemakers such as Eben Sadie, Adi Badenhorst and Andrea and Chris Mullineux began to rediscover, appreciate and tend to vineyards here. It resulted in a new chapter of sensitively-made gamechanging wines that would set a benchmark for not just the Swartland, but hot, dry climates across the globe.

The 2010s saw the next generation of winemakers lay roots here, among them Craig Hawkins of Testalonga and Jurgen Gouws of Intellego Wines. Now both into their second decade of winemaking, they are inspiring and passing on the baton to the next wave of newcomers.

Among them is MC Stander, who launched his own brand — L’Equinox — in 2019. Having spent a decade working as a viticulturist and winemaker at wineries in Paarl and the Swartland, he is now turning his hand to his own wines, adding another dimension to what this remarkable region can do.  

LITTLEWINE caught up with MC during a visit to South Africa in October 2022. 

People: MC Stander

Place: Swartland, South Africa

Varieties: Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Syrah, Pinotage, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Carignan

Farming: Sustainable, organic and biodynamic

Did You Know? While working at Joostenberg, MC went on a biodynamics course. It had a profound effect on him:

“We learnt about composting and the moon cycle. My learnings there played a big role in making me think: if you can rack your wines at a certain time of the month and get a wine that is just as clean — or cleaner — than by adding stuff that you buy to the wine... why wouldn't you do it that way? Plus, that stuff you add negatively impacts flavours and your palate. That was a big turning point.”  

MC works with five different growers across the Paardeberg. The vineyards are planted on decomposed granite soils, and are almost all farmed organically and/or biodynamically. By 2023, MC hopes to reach a point where he will be able to take responsibility for the vineyards himself —with his own designated blocks — and by five years’ time he hopes to be farming all of vineyards biodynamically. He says, 

“I like thinking outside of the box. I’d love to work with the plants in this area. At the end of the day, It’s not about the name ‘biodynamic’ but the principles. If you follow the principles, you can manage everything yourself, and you’ll have less of a footprint on the environment than if you’re driving to Stellenbosch to collect the biodynamic preparations.” 

He explains that following biodynamic principles allows for a more personal connection to the land: 

“We have definitely got lost when it comes to our connection with plants. With biodynamics, you learn how specific vineyards grow, and how they differ and how they respond. Then, you can change things. That’s more important than just ticking off ‘I’ve done this spray at this time.’ I love farming and being in the vineyards, but I want to do it in a way that makes me happy. It can give you joy. Even when you’re spraying the preparations it’s as if there’s an energy in the air when you’re doing it. I don’t want to use the word ‘magic’ — but there is really something about it. And you do pick it up in the wines. There’s a different energy in wines that come from vineyards which have been farmed in that way for ten years or more — if the winemakers make simple wines where they just try to...

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