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New World Wine Maker Blog

Camping Wine

The neighbouring campsite has gotten loud again, I am at my wits end! As I begin to scout for the source of the cacophony of cackling laughter, my spying eyes zone in on the culprit. A glimmer of campfire lights a patch on a nearby camping table, almost like a spotlight, and a box of dry white glimmers in the distance. AHA! I knew there had to be wine behind those ground-shaking snores last night!

Nobody enjoys the sounds of glass bottles clinking as you make your way along an abhorred dirt road, the clink-clink-clank of bouncing booze bottles for two to three hours is enough to drive anyone up the wall. Never mind the Bon-Jovi CD that hops with every bump in the road, accompanied with the clinking bottles, you also run the risk of obtaining a few breakages on the way.

So what other choice do we have but to opt for the oh-so-environmentally-friendly PVC (plastic) bottles or the good old faithful dry or semi-sweet box wine? While shopping around for Christmas presents in December 2018, I stumbled across an absolute gem of a Christmas gift for my fellow wine-lovers and glass bottle connoisseurs…..a resealable and reusable pap-sak. Hear me out, its designed in a very tech savvy manner, no-one would ever think it tacky. As an aspiring winemaker, the thought of filling two of these bad boys straight from my favourite tanks sent shivers down my spine.

Finally, a way to pack litres of my favourite wines into the car without any rattle and clink! While this isn’t necessarily a new invention, it isn’t the first thing to come to mind while I’m making the pre-camping checklist. Wine (x4) always makes its appearance in the top three items marked “do not forget”, along with underwear and socks, but when you feel as passionately about your getaway wine as I do, this may present a slight problem. Out of fear for breakages and shear annoyance by the rattling glass, I always end up with the wine on my lap too! I think it’s about time I make the upgrade to that nifty reusable wine bag.

But wait, there’s more! These lovely reusable wine bags also come with a thermal cover to keep your wines chilled, alternatively if you enjoy committing wine sacrilege the screwcap seal is also wide enough for ice blocks to be tossed in. I have recently taken up the craft of wine cocktail making, if you’re not the biggest fan of wine, these might interest you. Soda water, wine, fresh fruit (I prefer berries and lime), a dash of mint and a cordial of your choice may open you up a whole new world of wine-based drinks. The reusable camping pap-sak is also perfect for this!

I like to think of this little innovation as the newer model your ex trades you in for, that he thinks is way better, but is kind of exactly the same thing with a shiner label and a higher cost. After all this sugar coating, it is actually still a pap-sak, however you get to choose what wine or wine cooler you’d like to put into it. I could be drinking a bulk dry red, I could also be drinking an ultra-premium cab – who knows?

Another handy use for these bags (and this ones for the boys) is when you go fishing or sailing. Recently, a consumer asked me if it was at all possible to buy our wines in pap-saks because they loved our wine so much, but didn’t love the idea of wine bottles rolling around in the boat on their deep-sea fishing trip. While we unfortunately did not love the idea of putting our very limited boutique wine into pap-saks, I wish I had known about these reusable wine bags! I could have sold a couple of litres of wine that day, had I known. So, if there are any sailors out there wondering if there is a way to pack and store your favourite wine in litres and litres aboard, now you know!

While I must admit, in my first year of studying wine I probably would have died a slow and painful death if someone had suggested this to me, now graduated and slightly more open to new ideas, I can’t wait to get my hands on two or three of these bad boys. Nothing beats the heat of the bushveld like a cool glass of Chardonnay, Chenin or Sauvignon blanc and I can’t wait to pour and pour until my heart is content!

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Brandy in a different light

“Branne-branne-branne-brannewyn het nie brieke nie”, a simple Afrikaans song symbolizing the South Africans outlook on brandy. We are so conditioned to the culture of brandy, mixed with coke, that red stained cheeks are no surprise to such a ‘sophisticated’ drinking nation, ultimately neglecting the intricate science behind the brandy we so readily buy off our convenience store shelf.

As a fourth-year student of BSc Viticulture and Oenology, I have not come in contact with the distillation of wine as much, but rather the making of wine itself. During one of our courses this semester, we were fortunate enough to receive lectures form Distell. These professional scientist and marketing managers from Distell, completely reformulated my narrow-mind outlook on brandy  and excitement towards the brandy industry and an appreciative approach towards brandy as we do not know it. Amongst other things we learned the science behind it, we learned about the alcohol recovery, the difference between column still and pot still brandy and most excitingly the blending of brandy.

In one of our practicals were lucky enough to make up our own brandy blend. We were divided in to groups and we had to make a traditional pot still brandy. As I am not an experience brandy drinker this was a new and exciting challenge. Not knowing how to go about the blending, as scientists, we started off with calculations. In order to make a proper pot still brandy, you need an end alcohol concentration of 38%. In order to achieve this, the alcohol percentages for the brandy blending components needs to be known. This is then calculated in order to determine the amount of water that needs to be added in order to dilute the strong alcohol.

We received the best of Distell’s brandy, which included a 3-year-old, a 5-year-old, a 10-year-old distilled hanepoot and a 12-year-old. Each of these components had different aromas and mouthfeels. We started by smelling all of the different components and our group ended up with a blend that consisted of a 3-year-old, 5-year-old and 10-year-old.

At the end of the practical we were all thrilled and inspired. We just blended our own brandy and we could each take a bottle home to show our friends. I claimed to have ‘made my own brandy’, I felt very impressed with myself.

Looking back on this experience and the divine science behind distilling and blending brandy, I can confidently say that ‘brannewyn’ might not have brakes after all. It is such an amazing drink with hundreds of years’ worth of stories to tell. It is a multicultural, multi-lingual drink that is still to peek in South Africa.

Me, as a young female, with a deep appreciation for grape growers, farmers and the science of alcohol had an epiphany: brandy is a stylish drink. We should embrace the years of “klippies and cola” and never stop innovating and upgrading our perspective.

I would like to thank Distell for the knowledge and the insight your bought to us as aspiring wine makers. It was truly an enriching course and I am now forced to say that the stereotypical South African outlook needs to give brandy a brake.

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Meet Michael van Niekerk, Cellarmaster & Viticulturist at Audacia

Q Where and when were your born ?

“Upington on 31st January 1983.”

Q Where did you study and what qualifications have you got ?

“I studied at Elsenburg Agricultural College and obtained a Diploma in Oenology and Viticulture.”

Q How involved do you get in the vineyard ? 

“I am fully involved in the vineyard management and this contributes immensely when it comes to harvest time, regarding the quality of each block, tank, batch etc. “

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

A slightly hesitant answer “Yes and no.  I’m open to experiment which we have done with the “Audacia No Sulphur Added Range” however I am very much focused on traditional cultivar specific qualities in our traditional style wines. “

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

“Not really, but I do like the challenge that we have with Merlot in or area and South Africa in general.”

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

“No, not specifically, but I do believe that each harvest/vintage, locally and abroad, working with different winemakers helped me to form my own views and ultimately the style I pursue.”

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

“To be able to produce a product that people enjoy year after year. “

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

“We have being using Rooibos and Honey bush wood as natural preservatives since 2011, so we so we don’t use any SO2 in these wines. Recently we partnered with a pharmaceutical lab that extracts the polyphenols out of these woods to give us tannin that is very concentrated and high in very concentrated in natural anti-oxidants. The wooded wines used to have a distinct characteristic, but the new wines made with the tannins are just like any other traditional wines. “

Q How important is modern winemaking equipment in your winemaking ?

“It does not play a big part at all, the most modern piece of equipment we have is our second hand press. We spend most of our time in the vineyards with soil and canopy management to get the best grapes we can. That is where we gain most of our quality.”

Q. What else ? 

“I grew up on a sheep farm in the Northern Capeso I have definitely felt at home with the lower water levels the past few years. I matriculated in Upington then after Elsenburg I did vintages in Australia, California and Italy before I came back to settle in South Africa. We have all manner of current challenges from climate to sales and as South African producers we will need to become more and more adept at sorting out the   Challenges so as to still produce our superior products.”

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The advantages and disadvantages of oxygen prior to bottling

By Charl Theron, Wineland Media.

“Oxygen can make or break a wine.” – Louis Pasteur. Oxygen is an integral part of life and plays an important role in different biological and chemical reactions.

Dissolved oxygen is the free molecular oxygen in solution and is expressed as milligram per litre (mg/L), parts per million (ppm) or percentage saturation (%sat). The extent of oxygen solution into wine during air contact is influenced by temperature, atmospheric pressure and the pH of the wine. Lower temperature and an increased atmospheric pressure favour the solubility of oxygen and higher pH decreases the percentage molecular sulphur dioxide, which limits the influence of oxygen as an anti-oxidant. At standard temperature and atmospheric pressure wine is saturated with oxygen at a dissolved oxygen concentration of 6 mg/L (

The general perception is that oxygen is detrimental for wines, although certain stages of winemaking exist where it can be beneficial, if managed properly. This includes the hyperoxidation of juice, the role of oxygen during the initiation of alcoholic fermentation and the micro-oxygenation of red wines.

The aim of hyperoxidation prior to alcoholic fermentation is to protect the resulting wine against browning or oxidation during the further winemaking processes. It is also stated that it can improve the shelf life of such wines. It comprises the enzymatic oxidation where oxygen reacts with certain phenol groups in the absence of sulphur dioxide to form yellow quinones. The latter compounds react further with oxygen to form brown coloured products, which precipitate and can be removed by racking. Wines made from such juice are consequently protected against further browning. The uncertain potential advantages of such procedure depend on various factors of which the vineyard and cultivar can play a role. Different opinions also exist regarding the influence of such practice on the sensory quality of wine.

Oxygen is essential for the multiplication of yeasts and formation of flavour profiles in the beginning of alcoholic fermentation. Most of the dissolved oxygen results from the crushing of the grapes, pressing of skins and rackings. Depending on the temperature, equipment and the executed processes it can even lead to the saturation level of oxygen at 6 to 9 mg/L oxygen. If insufficient oxygen is present in the juice it can lead to sluggish or stuck fermentations. This is as result of insufficient sterole formation in the yeasts. Sterole formation is essential for yeast propagation and after various generations of yeast propagation a shortage of oxygen may develop for it. Dissolved oxygen levels of 4 to 6 mg/L are required at the beginning of alcoholic fermentation to overcome this problem …


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We are wine enthusiasts

What is it about wine that we love? What is it that makes us meticulous in the cellars? What is it that captivates our minds and has us watching videos about obscure places and buying copious wine books on the off chance they might say something new?

As wine enthusiasts we are of a rare breed. Not only do we want to know about how the wine was made, we want to know where the grapes come from, the history of the region, everything down to how the weather was when the grapes were picked. Seriously, we are obsessed. When you drink a wine from a specific region, you drink a little of its history, its terroir, the passion of its people.

As wine enthusiasts we are passionate. If your eyes twinkle when you speak about wine or your heart jumps when you find a new vintage at an affordable price, then your passion for wine is bubblier than a freshly disgorged MCC.

As wine enthusiasts we are explorers, hiking up mountains to find a hermit wine maker because according to legends his Cabernet Sauvignon is fit for kings.  Discovering new cultivars and exploring different countries to find the best wines possible.

As wine enthusiasts we are hopeless romantics. Although some of us prefer to be lone wolves, we cannot deny the pleasure we get when we smell an old barrel cellar. How special we feel when we  drink an untouched wine that has been sitting in the barrel for 2 years.

As wine enthusiasts we are scholars. Always learning the history of the farm and regions. Researching new and diverse methods of making and enjoying wines.  There are countless courses for one to learn how to enjoy, judge and serve wines – obviously we want to know it all!

As wine enthusiasts we are chefs. Great Wine needs to be paired with great foods, this has us looking up recipes and going to early morning markets to get those fresh ingredients that will pair perfectly with the wine we have been saving for a special occasion.

As wine enthusiasts we are scientists. We are perfecting microbiological processes to bring out the best expression of terroir and cultivar. Measuring everything from pH to potassium levels to ensure that the yeast we use will give us the wine we want.

As wine enthusiasts we are drinkers. To unwind from a long day at work – drink a glass of wine. To celebrate a happy occasion – drink a glass of wine.  When we are upset – drink a glass of wine. When we are tired – drink a glass of wine. No matter how we feel, we can find a glass of wine that will match our mood.

As wine enthusiasts we are creative. We have paired wine with cupcakes, nougat, ice-cream, biltong, fudge, food, music, art, painting, gaming, reading. We have invented glasses that don’t spill and glasses you can plug right into the top of the bottle, so for the worst days you don’t have to keep refilling your glass.

As wine enthusiasts we are patient. We are gifted at waiting for wines to mature in barrel or bottle for them to reach their ultimate potential.

As a wine enthusiast I love discovering new wines, exploring farms I have never been to, tasting styles I’ve never heard of, getting people to enjoy wine and experiencing the diverse history of this industry.

As a fellow wine enthusiast what do you love about wine?

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What’s Causing Your Wine Flu?

Have you ever gone wine tasting and overheard the dreaded, “How much Sulphur is in this wine?” or “I am allergic to Sulphur”? Tasting room stewards often fear these remarks, while customers often make them under the presumption that they are allergic to Sulphur Dioxide. I’ve often wondered how some wines could affect me so severely that I’d get almost hay fever like symptoms after two or three sips, while others are perfectly fine. Strangely enough, after working in tasting rooms for almost 4 years, I have never once received a complaint about a white wine induced migraine or sulphur allergy, whereas red wine often receives some batting due to the presumption that they have a higher sulphur dioxide level. Something I have definitely received in my years of wine drinking, however, is a few nasty hangovers and migraines, I’m talking about those crippling kinds that make you wince…..for like 5 seconds before you’re ready to drink another glass.

What if I told you that there is another unspoken of culprit causing your migraines, that there is another sneaky crook causing those dreaded red wine hangovers? An almost silent word in the wine industry needs to be brought to light and taken more seriously by winemakers, “biogenic amines”. Produced by both yeast and malolactic bacteria, biogenic amines are hard to avoid. Poor Sulphur gets the blame for most of the damage caused by Biogenic Amines, well I intend to serve justice on the Sulphur’s behalf! – Okay, semi-justice, Mr Sulphur Dioxide isn’t entirely innocent.

Mr Sulphur D is not entirely as innocent as we’d like it to be, as some consumers are sensitive to higher levels of sulphur in wine, it should be noted that fruit juice and dried fruit products as well as many other foodstuffs have far higher (double to triple) quantities of sulphur dioxide in them than the levels of which are found in wine. Further, many of the allergic reactions triggered in consumers were found to occur in only red wine, while white wine cases are far less. This makes one wonder if Mr Sulphur D was solely responsible for the allergic reactions, or if it had an accomplice (Biogenic Amines).

Red wines undergo malolactic fermentation in order to soften the palate by increasing the pH (less acid), whereas in white wines the higher acidity (lower pH) levels are more desired, less white wines therefore undergo malolactic fermentation. Spontaneous malolactic fermentation is a risky business, the indigenous bacteria lottery isn’t always in your favour. Most indigenous bacteria produce higher levels of biogenic amines while spontaneous fermentation takes place, where the amines are released to act as a buffer against low wine pH. Histamine, a type of biogenic amine, is well-known to trigger allergic reactions. The reactions induced by the five biogenic amine types found in wine include heart palpitations, migraines, rashes, stomach ache and a respiratory reaction wherein an almost asthmatic response may be triggered.

Our culprit, Biogenic Amines, stands guilty of posing threat to consumer health. So, what can we as wine enthusiasts do to debunk the Sulphur myth? We can educate our consumers on biogenic amines, while still remaining sensitive to those who do really struggle with sulphur allergies. As winemakers, it is important to remember that the indigenous lottery isn’t always in your favour, while using a commercial strain may be much safer. Most commercial strains that have been isolated for malolactic fermentation, contain bacteria strains that produce less biogenic amines due to their improved tolerance to more acidic wines. It has also been shown that co-inoculation inhibits the enzymes found in O. oeni that break down amine groups to form biogenic amines, while sequential inoculation may still produce biogenic amines. The quantities produced by commercial strains are far less than those produced by indigenous strains.

Before learning about biogenic amines, I’d often thought of myself as one of the many wine drinkers that suffer from a severe sulphur allergy. My throat starts to close up after a hefty glass of red wine, but the reactions were far worse when I drank guava juice or mango juice. Beyond having an evident sulphur allergy, I started to realise that I didn’t have a reaction with all wines. White wines, that often have much higher sulphur levels, I could drink with ease. What happens if you’re allergic to sulphur and there are biogenic amines in your red wine? Well, luckily there are plenty of low sulphur reds out there, but as winemakers, the only solution to a lower biogenic amine count in your wine is to inoculate your wines with a commercial strain of O.Oeni.

It could be concluded as a court (of wine drinkers, winemakers and wine enthusiasts) we hereby find Biogenic Amines guilty of causing insufferable hangovers, migraines and the likes, while we see no reason to detain Mr Sulphur D – we will however charge him to do some community service for his role in triggering some allergic reactions, despite his good intentions to keep the wine clean and oxygen free!

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