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New World Wine Maker Blog

The perfect pair?

There are many different wine pairings that we have come to know and enjoy. Food was made to go with wine and wine was made to go with food. Of course one can have the former or the latter but why would one deny themselves the pure art that forms on the palate when the two are combined. We have so many options presented to us as wine enthusiasts: Chocolate and wine, cheese and wine,  cupcake and wine, biltong and wine, ice cream and wine, toffee and wine, marshmallow and wine, Turkish delight and wine and the list goes on! There have even been sushi and wine and curry and wine pairings! But have you ever heard of music and wine pairing?

I had the pleasure of being invited to a music and wine pairing in Swartland. It was hosted in one of the oldest houses in the Riebeek valley. Stepping into it was like stepping back in time with a modern twist. A Fire burning in the library, the smell of old books and the creek of the hardwood floor.  Chairs set up in front of the Piano, modern art hung on the walls and good acoustics as the piano man nervously tinkled on some keys. I was tentative, music and wine?  How will this work, well let me tell you it’s not an experience I will soon forget.

The music was explained in great detail, the lifts the falls, the extensions and the keys the music was played in. All old classical pieces that were technical and impressive as well as enjoyable. He explained technical jargon:

Allegro – An Italian word referring to a quick and lively tempo. It generally has a very upbeat feel to it.

Baroque – Music ranging from the 1600s to around 1750 is generally described as belonging to the baroque era. Examples of baroque composers include Vivaldi, Bach and Handel.

Crescendo – A gradual increase in volume of the music.

Elegy – A piece of music that expresses grief or sorrow.

Forte – An instruction in sheet music to play loudly; often abbreviated as f.

Harmony – When several notes are played together to form chords in some type of progression, it is known as a harmony. In general, harmonies form a pleasing sound.

Key Signature – In sheet music, each section typically shows a key signature. The key signature is denoted as a combination of flats or sharps to indicate the key in which the piece should be played.

Largo – Largo, translated literally from Italian, means broad. In a musical context, it is an instruction to play slowly.

Legato – When notes are played legato, they are played smoothly so that they flow together seamlessly.

Mezzo – Mezzo means half, and it is used in conjunction with other words. For example, mezzo-forte would mean half as loud as normal.

Nocturne – A piece of music that is evocative of night-time moods, usually sleepy or romantic.

Piano – In music terminology, piano is not referring to the musical instrument but rather the way in which music is played. Piano means that it should be played softly. The word ‘piano’ can a suffix to indicate the degree of softness. Pianissimo (pp) means even softer.

Of course we are all here to read about wine, but it’s important to understand these terms so that you can understand how it pairs with the wine.

Pairing was 6 wines with 6 different pieces of music.  The first one was a White blend, lemon, pale and clear, tropical fruit with wood characteristics on the nose, a complex wine that evolves on the palate. This was paired with a complex piece of music that starts off light and simple but as you get to the middle of the piece it escalates into crescendo, this worked well with the wine as the vanilla and oak flavours developed on the middle of the palate. The music switched to legato as the finish developed on your palate, it was long and lingering and smooth.

A different wine we tried was a Shiraz, it was paired with a Nocturne. The Shiraz was dark and ruby, with cigar box and fresh red fruit on the nose, some caramel with a delicious and brooding dark chocolate on the palate. Perfectly paired with the Nocturne, it painted the image of a woman in a red velvet dress singing jazz in a highly esteemed restaurant. The Music evolved with the wine, some forte keys enhanced the tannins and the piece ending in Pianissimo which tickled on the keys just as the red fruit lingered on the palate for a long and pleasing finish.

An interesting experience that would be appreciated most by music lovers and wine lovers, whether it will become a trend or not is yet to be seen but can you imagine playing your sweetheart that perfect song that reminds you of them while sipping on an equally sweet Noble late harvest. There is so much potential in this idea, not only to enhance the image of the wine industry but also to support our local South African Musicians.

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The malolactic enzyme – parameters effecting expression

By Wineland Media

Lynn Engelbrecht, Senzo Mtshali, Bronwen Miller & Maret du Toit

The results obtained showed that pH, ethanol and malic acid play an important role in the expression of the malolactic enzyme gene.Malolactic fermentation is a very important process in winemaking, resulting in deacidification, microbial stability and aroma modifications. The direct conversion of l-malic acid to l-lactic acid during malolactic fermentation is catalysed by the malolactic enzyme. Here we report on the results of two studies investigating the effects of pH, ethanol and malic acid on the expression of the malolactic enzyme gene (mle) from Oenococcus oeni and Lactobacillus plantarum. The expression of the mle gene was enhanced at lower pH levels (pH 3.2 vs. 3.8), as well as in the presence of malic acid, while expression decreased in the presence of ethanol. A higher expression level of the mle gene encoding the malolactic enzyme may be linked to a faster and/or successful malolactic fermentation and a better understanding of which parameters and how they affect mlegene expression, could aid in managing a successful malolactic fermentation. Our results also support the use of co-inoculation as a malolactic fermentation inoculation strategy.


Genes are part of a living organism’s genome and are responsible for specific traits and characteristics. Each gene contains a set of instructions on how to produce a functional product, for example an enzyme. The process by which the information contained within a gene is used to produce this functional product or enzyme is called gene expression. Not every gene product is needed all the time. The organism assess the environment and then reacts on internal and external signals which triggers the expression of certain genes necessary for the development and survival of the organism at that specific moment.

Malolactic fermentation is a very important step in the winemaking process. By the conversion of l-malic acid to l-lactic acid, it contributes to deacidification of the wine, microbial stability, as well as softening, while the aromatic profile is also being influenced. Oenococcus oeni is the lactic acid bacteria mainly associated with malolactic fermentation and is the most favourable species used in malolactic starter cultures. However, the species Lactobacillus plantarum, which is also frequently found in grape must and wine, and effective in completing malolactic fermentation successfully,1 has also now been used in commercial malolactic starter cultures either as a single strain or mixed with O. oeni.

Ideally, O. oeni prefers to grow at a pH of 4.8, in a medium with £10% (v/v) ethanol and at a temperature of 22°C,2 whereas in wine O. oeni is exposed to harsh environmental conditions, including high ethanol concentrations (>12%), low pH (<3.8), sulphur dioxide, low temperatures (<18°C) and limited nutrients. However, it is able to survive this multi-stress environment and therefore the best adapted wine lactic acid bacteria. In order to survive these conditions, O. oeni employs different stress response mechanisms to preserve energy and to defend and protect the cell envelope. The main mechanism of survival is the metabolism of l-malic acid which generates a proton motive force, resulting in the production of energy through ATP synthesis and deacidification of the intracellular pH3 and in the presence of ethanol for example, O. oeni has showed to respond by increasing the fatty acid content in its membrane to regulate membrane fluidity.4,5

The direct transformation of l-malic acid into l-lactic acid by wine lactic acid bacteria is the result of the malolactic enzyme. A better understanding of the when, the where and what conditions promotes or prevents the expression of the gene coding for the malolactic enzyme, provides valuable information on predicting the effectiveness of malolactic fermentation.


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Meet Skye Nolan – Assistant Winemaker at Origin Wines

Q. When and where  were you born ?

“ I was born in Randburg, Gauteng, in 1994.”

Q. Where did you study ? 

A straight and honest answer.  “ I did not study formally. “I had attended an Agricultural school because of my love for agriculture and nature.  When we moved to the Cape I was lucky enough to get a job in the Tasting Room at Lord’s Wine in Mcgregor”  She continued “The winemaker was Ilse van Dijk, in a relatively new winery.  She needed help in the 2015 vintage and so I was moved from the tasting room to help her.”

Q. Lord’s is an unusual name for a winery in the Cape owned by the Oosthuizen family ?

“Yes, it had been a mixed farm for about  100 years when cricket crazy Jackie took over and named the winery after what he considered the Home of Cricket, Lords.”

Q. Do you consider your approach to winemaking different to others ? 

“Yes I do.  I focus far more on the creative and intellectual aspects of winemaking. However I feel  that science plays as much of a role. There must be a balance.”

 Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ? 

“Currently not, but I am learning from the farmers.  Once our vines start producing I hopefully will get far more involved.”

Q. Do you have any varieties you prefer to work with ? 

With a coy smile, “Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.”

Q. Have you been influenced  by any particular winemaker or by a wine region ? 

“I think the way I started, each winemaker I had something to do with regarding winemaking, I was very much influenced. Everything I know I have learned from the winemakers I worked with.  In particular, Alwyn Liebenberg, (At Lords’ Wines), Natalee Botha and Monique Fourie. The manager and winemaker where I am now, Great Domaines of Origin “

Q. What would you consider your greatest achievement as a winemaker?

With a big smile “Just making it successfully into the winemaking industry without any qualifications !!”

Q. What “secrets”  have you developed  that make your wines different to others ? 

“Not sure it is a “secret” but just always being positive and enthusiastic.  I think happy people make happy wine .”

Q. How important is modern winemaking equipment  in your winemaking ?

“Modern winemaking equipment definitely has benefits with regards to quality or our large batches of wine. Therefore, modern winemaking equipment is very important. “

Q.  What of the future ?  

“I had a lucky break getting into the wine industry and am going to make the very best of it, going forward.  My vintage at Rupert and Rothschild  for the 2016 harvest added no end to my learning. Now two vintages at Great Domains in Devon Valley have given me far more learning opportunities than I could have imagined. I will continue to learn and do whatever courses I can including SKOP and CWA. I want to be a fully-fledged winemaker “.

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Middle-Aged, Moderate Drinkers May Be Less Likely to Develop Dementia

In a new British study, both nondrinkers and heavy drinkers exhibited higher likelihoods of experiencing the degenerative brain condition.

Middle-aged wine lovers might be helping out their future selves, a new study on alcohol and dementia suggests. Published this month in the BMJ, the study indicates a link between moderate drinking during midlife and a lower chance of developing dementia later on.

The findings are based on data from the Whitehall II study, an ongoing project tracking the health of British civil servants that were between the ages of 35 and 55 in 1985 (when the project began). For the new study, a team of French and British researchers gathered 23 years’ worth of follow-up data on 9,087 Whitehall II participants, including hospital records and self-reported levels of alcohol consumption.

The researchers classified participants who had fully abstained from alcohol, those who stopped drinking early in the study and those who infrequently drank during the study period as “abstainers.” Those who regularly drank were split into two additional groups: those who drank between 1 and 14 units of alcohol per week (the United Kingdom’s recommended intake for both men and women) and those who drank above that rate. (In this case, one unit is equivalent to 10 milliliters of pure alcohol, or a bit more than half of a standard 5-ounce glass of wine.)

Based on a total of 397 hospital-reported cases of dementia, the researchers found that the group that abstained from alcohol and the group that drank in excess of 14 units per week were both shown to be at a higher risk of developing dementia than participants who drank between 1 and 14 units. Additionally, among those who drank more than 14 units per week, every seven additional drinks per week increased dementia risk by 17 percent.

The study’s authors point out that the underlying causes for the increased risk are likely different for each of the two higher-risk groups. Abstainers, for example, were shown to have a higher prevalence of cardiometabolic disease (stroke, coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation, heart failure and diabetes), which the study’s text explains could contribute to dementia development. The researchers also found that a history of hospital admission for alcohol-related diseases was associated with a four-times higher risk of dementia, thus supporting the idea that overconsumption confers a higher risk ….


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Meet Monique Fourie – General Manager at Grand Domaine

Q. When and where were you born ?

“2nd October 1986 in the famous  East Rand town of Benoni.”

Q. What brought you to the Cape ?

“As soon as I matriculated in 2005 I moved to the Cape.   I was so  fascinated by wine. While growing up  and tasting a few sips here and there, usually around the dinner table  really aroused my interest. All those different aromas and flavours. Wine really had my attention and excited me. I had to know how to make it.  I left my family in Benoni where they still are.  !”  Then adds “I get to visit them regularly but the Winelands are now my home.”

Q Where did you study ?

“I did a Bsc. Agric (Oenology & Viticulture) at the University of Stellenbosch.”

Q. Do you consider  your approach to winemaking to be different to others ?

With a smile “I am sure everyone tries to be different to others., however to me it is about precision and understanding from vine to wine.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ? 

“I have always tried to  get involved as much as possible. Now at Great Domaines I have a unique opportunity to grow up with new young wines and get to know them from scratch with a great farmer.”

Q Do you have any varieties you prefer to work with ?

Without hesitation “King Cabernet and relation Sauvignon Blanc !”

Q Have you been influenced  by  any particular winemaker or by a region ?

“I have been blessed to have worked under great winemakers like De Wet Viljoen, Pieter Badenhorst and Wim Truter. As good as you will ever get Then, of course , Stellenbosch where I started and is by far my favourite region.”

Q What would you consider your greatest achievement as a winemaker ?

“I was part of a great and talented team at the KWV that won best producer more than once at the Veritas Awards. Then now being appointed the General Manager at Grand Domaine. I would never have dreamt it at tender age of 32 !

Q  What “secrets” have you “developed” that make your wines different to others ?

“I won’t call it a secret but taste, taste, taste and taste some more ! It is important to me to ensure that my wines undergo healthy fermentations and stay that way until they are safely into the bottle.”

Q How important is modern winemaking equipment in your winemaking ? 

“I like the idea of traditional winemaking that includes lots of manual labour, but modern winemaking equipment definitely has its place. I am very open to it especially, when it increases the quality.”

Q  Outside of winemaking ?  

“I really enjoy golf, not that I am very good at it !! (Laughter !!)  I love exploring different foods and the wines that go with, lots !!”

Q  Are you married ? 

With a huge smile “No, not yet !!”

Q  The future ? 

“8 South African harvests done and 80 to go !!!”

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Dessert in a Glass

Autumn colours swiftly make a splash through the vineyards as winter slowly creeps in on the Western Cape. Driving along one of the country’s beautiful wine routes, one can’t help but gaze at the beautiful canvas-like vineyards, painted with beautiful shades of amber reds, burnt oranges and golden yellows that would make the sunset jealous.

Something else comes to mind as these colours flash in front of me, it’s the season of blazing, wood-crackling fires and dessert wine. Much like the vineyards’ deep reds, I am reminded of a lively, warm Cape Vintage. The infamous South African dessert wine, made in a Portuguese style that mimics Port, yields a flavoursome battle between the sweet, red berry and stewed fruit characters of red wine cultivars and the warm cinnamon, dark chocolate and smoky wood aromas.  A Cape Vintage is the ideal dessert wine style for the sweet-toothed red wine fanatic.

The more famous South African anti-freeze, Old Brown Sherry, is loved by many. It has a slight bitterness that cuts through the sweetness of traditional dessert wines, while it creates a small fire that grows in centre of one’s body. Apparently, OBS isn’t only good for the creaking bones of a cold human body in the heart of winter. While visiting family friends, I noticed my mother’s friend, Sandra, giving a small tot of OBS to her well-aged cat, Patsy. I stared in disbelief as Patsy lapped up every morsel of OBS, while Sandra explained that it keeps her nice and warm and provides some relief to her arthritic joints. I am by no means telling anyone to feed their four-legged companions alcohol, but if the little critters are as eager to lap up a drop or two as Patsy is, why not spare them a tiny tot?

This brings me onto our next dessert wine, while the golden colours of the vineyard grow darker its hard not to think of the beautiful liquid gold Noble Late Harvests and Hannepoots. My horse, Sunny, ironically enjoys a drop of sunshine (Hannepoot) every now and then too. Noble Late Harvest dessert wines can be made in two very definitive styles: The sweeter than honey, apricot jam and guava roll-loaded syrupy delight and the tart, yet perfectly balanced, lighter styles that focus more on the stone fruit characteristics while preserving some of the fresh cultivar acidity. Both styles are equally enjoyable, I often find myself enjoying the former with a dense, full fat vanilla ice-cream, while the latter style I prefer in a glass, as a post-dinner delight. What makes Noble Late Harvest different to other dessert wine styles, is that it cannot always be achieved every vintage and relies solely on the climatic conditions and terroir. Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot, is a type of mould that forms in the vineyard under the right micro-climatic conditions. It not only brings intense flavours out of the berries, but it also allows for a much more concentrated sugar level. These wines are often tricky to work with due to their higher viscosity and may take a few filtration and fining attempts to master, however the end result is well worth the hard work and determination.

The orange hues of the vineyard remind me of a well-aged Muscadel, with its sweet scent of raisins and apricots, who wouldn’t love this winter-warmer? I recently tasted a 2009 vintage, which had been aged in small 50l oak barrels for 5 years. The beautiful cinnamon-like scents enthralled with the raisiny sweetness are the perfect plus one for a chilly autumn evening.

Another popular dessert wine style, with a slight fiery kick to it, is the much loved Jerepico. The winemaking process is described as a marriage of the alcohol and wine components, and there is no better way to describe it. The sweet must forms a perfect balance with the warmth of the alcohol, whilst wood aging provides a lovely undertone of nutmeg and cinnamon spices.

Dessert wines are not only enjoyed in winter, I have often been told that noble late harvest wines pair perfectly with a dollop of ice cream on a warm day. These wine styles can often act as a syrup substitute and taste extraordinary when drizzled over various cold desserts. I personally enjoy sweeter wines as a stand-alone dessert, nothing beats a small glass of chilled Muscadel or Noble Late Harvest on a warm summers evening after a braai.

Although dessert wines are not always found on a conventional tasting room wine list, if you do find one or two I would definitely suggest giving them a try. If you are particularly set on a specific wine style, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. A full, hearty glass of Cape Vintage could be just as enjoyable as a full bodied red, but I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

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