Winemaker wins titanic organic battle in appeal court

26 September 2019 - 17:34 By Dave Chambers
A ewe with two new lambs among new vines at Marion Smith's Elgin Ridge Wines in July 2019.
A ewe with two new lambs among new vines at Marion Smith's Elgin Ridge Wines in July 2019.
Image: Twitter/Elgin Ridge Wines

An organic winemaker who was ordered to apologise for claiming one of her competitors was no longer certified organic has won her appeal.

Marion Smith, of Elgin Ridge Wines, went to the Supreme Court of Appeal after a Cape Town high court judge ordered her to retract a "false statement" about wine made by Mark Stevens at Eikenbosch farm in Wellington.

A full bench of five appeal judges handed her victory on Thursday, ordering Eikenbosch and its Mountain Oaks Winery to pay her costs.

Judge Fikile Mokgholoa said Stevens’ complaint about Smith’s claim on her website biodynamicorganicwine.co.za was "contrived" because it failed to take account of a European rule change for organic wines.

"Prior to August 2012, wines could be labelled as 'made from organic grapes’, whatever the subsequent wine-making process might have entailed, because that was the acceptable standard set by the EU," he said in his judgment.

After that date, "organic wine" could be used only if the entire process was organic, and Smith’s website claim that Mountain Oaks wine was "no longer organic" was not false because there was no proof or acceptable certification that it met the new standard.

Mokgholoa said Stevens had failed to prove that Smith knew her statement was false.

Smith’s website lists 17 SA farms that make organic wine, with four different bodies providing certification.

Her own farm makes five certified organic wines, including a chardonnay méthode cap classique sparkling wine.


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