The history of the wine trade is filled with stories of wine that has been manipulated, adulterated (substances not related to grapes being added) and even counterfeited. We have grown used to spinning cones and reverse osmosis, electron dialyses and ion exchange, thermoflush and decanting, cmc’s and various cocktails. Do not get me wrong, I also love the science of wine, and I firmly believe you have to have cash to sustain “real winemaking”…profit can only be achieved if costs are reduced and turn over maximised…and if you can use technology to achieve that, why not?

But to add strong acids? To add glycerol? To add flavourants? And call it wine? I can certainly not agree with this, even if legislation does in some cases. Take Mega Purple for example, a food additive that is used to enhance sensory attributes such as color, taste and mouth feel. It is produced by concentrating the teinturier grape Rubired, a cross between Alicante Ganzin and Tinta Cão and has a sugar concentration of 68%. Teinturier grapes is different to vinifera in that it has dark, red juice. Mega Purple is basically a concentrate of sugar and colour, and is added to a wine with insufficient colour to fix the colour to a darker hue, making it more attractive for the buyer. It is common knowledge that a darker, deeper red colour is associated with higher quality, irrespective of the cultivar. It is therefore possible to “change a white wine or Rose into a red wine” by the addition of this magic potion. The downside, however, is that it has its own, unique smell and if you use as little as <1% it may change the aroma/bouquet of the adulterated wine to something less intriguing. Perhaps it is in order to use mega purple in cheaper wines, but as soon as the potion is added to wine, it “homogenise” the complexity of the bouquet significantly. Perhaps the consumer who buys wine in this category does not really care about terroir, nor bouquet, only about price.

If you surf the net to establish how people feel about Mega Purple, you’ll find loads of oenophiliacs giving the wine drinking community a piece of their mind, but no comments from “semi-oenophiliacs”.  The question is though: Does someone who buys wine for less than $10 or €3-00 really care? I honestly think they don’t!

From a personal perspective though…I suppose it just does not feel right.

I remember someone saying long ago “it is the complexities of nature that gives personality to our wines…”

Bertus Fourie is a winemaker, turned Enology lecturer and creator of the Barista coffee Pinotage.