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New World Wine Maker Blog

Critical Drinking

“Can you recommend a wine to me?” says my friend.

“Of course.” I say.

Mufasa’s death scene then figuratively takes place in my head, the buffalo being the torrent of inflective questions; And Mufasa, of course, is my sense of reasoning.

It is a surprisingly difficult question to answer (correctly), much akin to recommending a movie: one point in the wrong direction and offense might be round the corner. I consider The Lion King a classic, but I wouldn’t recommend it to a zoologist or my boss. You respond to the person, and what you assume their interests are, and, with wine this can be trickier. Usually, the deduction takes place over a series of questions: Red or white? Price range? Refreshing or viscous? At the end of numerous questions, and heightened emotional exchanges, the interviewee has answered the question for themselves, and made my advisory role redundant. I think the police use similar techniques.

So we turn to our higher advisers – the Überweinmensch – which, we should never, ever call them! Yes, you guessed it … ‘the professional wine critics’. That elite bunch of men and women, who advise all of us on wine, and tread the perilous line between hatred and adoration of the subjects they judge. And certainly a line in their own mind’s as well, in case the old beast ‘narcissism’ takes over and convinces them that their opinion is now objective and not simply subjective.

Despite all the processes and mediums for quantification, we always revert back to that human default: numbers. That’s what we get off on. Give me a number rating for this wine and I’ll compare it to another (low) number (my bank balance) and see if the numbers work out.

After all, all our review systems are just numbers: The celebrated 5 star system is simply a score out of ten with pictures for the numerically inept; The 20 point system not so frequently seen since the rise of Parker is a 40 point score system once people start whipping out the decimal points; and the 100 point system, which thankfully has no decimal points, although now that the whole range of scores only really lies with the 8796 range they’re gonna have to sort something out.

Personally, I prefer the 5 star system. It seems to grasp the differing experience one wine taster may have with another with a wine of certain tier. Trying to ascertain whether to buy a 92 point wine versus a 93 point is much like sorting the deck chairs on the Titanic: the deal is done, the wine IS good, the precision of exactly how good it is surely pertains only to the wine taster, his/her mood on the day, the environment they were in etc. A 93 may have been a 92 the day before. Best not to take it too literally.

Perhaps one day we might commercialise. Get some sponsors in and pit the critics against each other in direct competition. Get them to form teams, with mascots, theme music and corporate sponsorship. Put them in a steel cage and have them judge the hell out of wine WWE style. Hold a wine tasting Olympics, preceded by the ceremonial drunk stumbling along the street, Olympic Torch (zippo lighter) in hand.

When the dust has settled, and the victor has emerged drenched in the blood toil of countless olfactory battles, hands calloused by the twist of a thousand corkscrews, we can finally listen to their opinion and take it seriously without doubt or pretence. Or not. Or we just get on with our lives and let them do the same and buy and drink wine as we always have done, hopefully turning our attention to real problems.

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What your wine preference says about your personality

The other day, upon scrolling through my news feed on Facebook, I came across some sort of quiz that makes an assumption about your personality after answering a few simple questions and then miraculously associates it with a type of alcoholic beverage. Needless to say, my quiz concluded that I am a wine drinker (no surprise there). After that, I came to wonder why the quiz did not work the other way around instead. To me it makes a lot more sense to make assumptions about a person’s personality based on their preference of drink- and in this case: wine. After all, I have made most of my friends based on this theory. So I decided to give it a go and write a kind of “crash course” on the subject. (Disclaimer: These are all assumptions based on personal experiences and I cannot be held liable for any incidents that may or may not occur if put into practice.)

Dry Red

People that enjoy drinking a glass of full-bodied red, are usually kind and warm hearted themselves. They have a strong personality to counterbalance the “tannins of life” and usually have a robust way of living. Their outlook on life can sometimes be complex, but they make every moment count. Shiraz drinkers enjoy the spice of life, while Merlot lovers are a bit mellower and prefer spending time in nature. Pinotage enthusiasts may be patriotic or they might prefer to relax in a reclining leather chair after a long day’s work. Whatever the cultivar or blend of preference, these people are old souls and dependable individuals that will always be there for you in your time of need.

Sweet Rosé

These are usually not your avid wine drinkers and are most likely new to the wine drinking scene. A lot of the time this group includes university students that are not originally from the Western Cape. Rosé drinkers are fun loving people that enjoy the sweeter things in life and don’t take things too seriously. They drink pink drinks and are proud of it. They do, however, seem to retaliate when life becomes a little bitter. On the more positive side, chances are, that they will become pioneers that start to think outside of the box and achieve great things in life.

Champagne & MCC

Adored by socialites and stay-at-home moms, alike- these party goers and throwers have sparkling personalities that can keep you entertained for days on end. They are always the life of the party and the bubbling guests (or hosts) of honour. They walk with a spring in their step and a smile on their face. They laugh as much as possible and have the most positive outlook on life, compared to all the other wine drinkers. They have a taste for the finer things in life and they mingle with meaning. They make the most out of every opportunity and should not be mistaken for being ditzy or air-headed. They are strong and independent and will not back down from a challenge.

Extra Light White

This intriguing wine is sometimes labelled as “banting friendly” and therefore consumed by individuals that consider themselves to be “carb conscious”. But do not let this fool you- these wine drinkers do not shy away from the adventures of life. They are fit, happy and active and go through life with a sparkle in their eye. They are always on the go and busy doing something, never standing still and never letting an opportunity slip through their skinny fingers. Their humour is no drier than mine and they enjoy having a cold one over a few laughs.

So there you have it- our preference in wines are as unique and abundant as our vastly different personalities. Some people don’t have a favourite wine and will enjoy a glass from all walks of life, others stick to what they know best. Whatever your wine preference, as long as you like wine, I’m sure we’ll get along just fine.

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Adi Badenhorst Winemaker at Badenhorst Family Wines

Q : When and where were you born  ?

“I was born in Wynberg in 1972.”

Q : Where did you study ?  

With the mischievous grin that most of his contributions were given  “I studied at University of Stellenbosch  for a few years  before I was asked to leave as a result of my poor academic record ! After much persuasion and bribery I was accepted at Elsenberg Agricultural College. It was here that I found my calling. I studied oenology and viticulture under the great Eugene van Zyl.”

Q : Where did you make wine before Badenhorst Family Wines ?

“I had nine vintages  at Rustenberg where I made some serious wines .” “After Elsenburg I worked a few harvests at Chateau Agelus, and in the north of Rhone in France  and with Wither Hills in New Zealand. In South Africa I did stints at Simonsig, Steenberg and Groote Post.”

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

“No, we simply work with what we have.’ Then with a broad grin continues “ Lack of cash flow and love of vinyl has determined many of our approaches in the cellar !”

Q : How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

With a determined seriousness “I spend a lot of time in the vineyards’. He continued, “I grew up in Constantia and as a kid spent a lot of time stealing grapes which gave me time to perfect my picking techniques !”

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

“All the varieties that we work with are extremely different and interesting in their own right. The old vineyards of Chenin are simply sublime. Our Grenache and Cinsault, are some of the oldest vineyards in South Africa, have an infectious energy to them and this  somehow translates into wine too !”

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

With some deep thought “A person like Eben Sadie is a complete enigma. We are good friends and I enjoy his wisdom and beautiful wines. Serge Hochar from Chateau Musar was also someone with whom  you talk about life. I love the wines of Burgundy and the Jura and the German wines from that long winding river “ (The Rhine !) He continues “It all started with Jean Daneel, then the winemaker at Buitenverwachting , who let me make my first wine when I was thirteen !!”

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

“A gold medal for Cinsaut at the one and only show in South Africa, the Jongwynskou !”

Q : How important is modern winemaking equipment in your wine making ?

“Not too important at all !” (Adi actually boasts  about  the lack of equipment.!)

Q : Thoughts on the future ?

“We will continue to make wines of authenticity and honesty. We will plant new vineyards to become old for future generations. We will look after and tirelessly care for the older vineyards.”  Then with that tongue full in his cheek “ We will braai every fortnight at 5 am in the morning !!”

Notes  :  In 2008 Adi Badenhorst and his cousin Hein bought a 60 hectare, neglected old farm in the Swartland. The cousins have restored the neglected cellar which was last used in the 1930’s !  A A Badenhorst  practice  biological farming and make wines in very traditional ways.

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New technology for juice recovery in winemaking

by Loftie Ellis, Hand Perabo & Brett Rightford

Decanter technology can have a huge impact on juice recovery in future, according to results of commercial-scale tests.

Standard practices for the processing of grapes to juice include destemming, crushing, draining, pressing and settling or flotation. The result is always two fractions of juice: higher-quality free-run juice and lesser-quality press juice. New developments in decanter technology allow separation of juice, either directly after removal of the stems, or after some contact time. The juice is recovered without draining and/or pressing and the processing is continuous.

Worldwide, decanters are commonly used on many different products to remove solids from liquids. When the use of the Hiller decanter was first considered for commercial-scale grape processing, the idea was met with great resistance (especially from Germany). Yield and the quality of the juice obtained were the main concerns. After trialling the Hiller decanter for the past five vintages in South Africa, it can be concluded that it has the possibility of making a significant contribution to process optimisation in wineries. This article reports on three of the trials conducted in the past five years.

Materials and methods

The Hiller decanter used in the trials was a small unit, capable of processing 10 tonnes of grapes per hour. The grapes entered the system either destemmed and crushed, or destemmed and uncrushed. Separation of juice and solids happened within minutes. The pomace, mainly grape skins and pips, contained less than 50 ℓ of juice per tonne of grapes.

Trials were performed with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay at Groote Post; Sauvignon Blanc at Boschendal; and Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for the production of Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) sparkling wine at Graham Beck, Robertson.

Analyses performed on both decanter and control juice and the resulting wines included: juice yield, total phenols, pH, titratable acidity (TA), potassium concentration, as well as informal sensory evaluations of the final wines. The analyses were performed by Wine Quality Consultants and Vinlab.

>> CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE

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Anchor Co-Inoculant Bacteria 3.2: THE FUTURE OF MALOLACTIC FERMENTATION

Winemakers have long used yeast starter cultures during fermentation to manipulate the final profile and quality of the resulting wine. This practice has become the norm around the world. Taking this a step further, Anchor Yeast has created a product that significantly enhances a wine’s sensory profile and quality through the use of carefully selected bacteria strains during malolactic fermentation.

Based on winemakers’ success with the original Anchor Co-Inoculant Bacteria, Anchor Yeast in collaboration with the Institute for Wine Biotechnology at the Stellenbosch University in South Africa, have developed a new bacteria blend: the Anchor Co-Inoculant Bacteria 3.2. This starter culture has been scientifically formulated to improve the taste and aroma profile of red and white wines; specifically for wines with a pH of 3.2 and higher.

The new Anchor Co-Inoculant Bacteria 3.2 is a mixed lactic acid bacteria starter culture for malolactic fermentation that offers the following advantages:

  • used for CO-INOCULATION, which creates more aromatic wines when compared with sequential inoculation and also increases ease of use
  • the inclusion of OENOCOCCUS OENI, which has proven importance in completing malolactic fermentation
  • and the inclusion of LACTOBACILLUS PLANTARUM, which results in an enhanced sensory profile.

The specific blend of O. oeni and L. plantarum strains in the Anchor Co-Inoculant Bacteria 3.2 were selected for their interaction and performance and result in the following sensory changes:

  •     more intense aromas
  •     an aroma profile with increased fruit
  •     fewer reductive or green flavours, especially in lower pH wines
  •     decreased astringency and tannin intensity.

Trials have shown that this bacteria starter culture increases the overall quality of wine compared to other starter cultures (see Fig. 1 ‘Aromatic profile’ and Fig. 2 ‘Taste profile’). In addition to providing winemakers with a powerful tool to augment red and white wine quality, this new culture is also easy to use and effective in completing the malolactic fermentation.

For more information, please contact Oenobrands at info@oenobrands.com  or www.oenobrands.com

This is another ADVANCED WINEMAKING SOLUTION brought to you by OENOBRANDS

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The War on Terroirism

Can you taste the soil: literally feel the cations in their particular ratios dancing on your tongue? Or perhaps that soft sea breeze that lulls an ever so gentle slumber of eucalyptus over the grape cuticles at night? If you enjoy wine to the point of scrutiny then it’s likely that these questions have been put to you in a more than ironic tone, whilst you were swirling and sniffing your glass when you thought no-one was looking. Of course you laugh, you look sideways, make a joke about smelling the colour of the winemaker’s socks on the day of harvest in the wine (also ironically), and then apologise internally to the wine and the winemaker for your profanity. However, if bitter, unrecognised victory is your thing – and it’s gonna have to be – you’re in luck: all these things you absolutely 100% can taste, however subtle or unwittingly … they are terroir!

Terroir is a great subject to talk about because it’s so opinionated, vague and broad – there can be no universal agreement. In the broadest sense, it pertains to all the factors involved in the ‘natural’ creation of grapes –  from soil, sun and sky to the roots absorbing chemical chelates from the remains of that peculiar species of Coleoptera that died in the soil. In wine, it is the expression of these diverse factors that is so coveted.

The wine community is a special group of people who have an ability to bring morality and opinion into every movement of the grape, as if each viticultural and oenological decision were being added to balancing scales in purgatory. With regards to terroir, I think, the fulcrum that people squabble over is honesty … “How honest is this wine?”. In this context (and thankfully, not elsewhere) everyone has a different definition of honesty. The honesty varies in regard to expression. Sorry for the buzzwords, expression is just a fancy way of saying what the wine tastes, feels, smells, looks (and sounds??) like – essentially, the drinking experience.

So far, so good, but now we find ourselves on bumpy ground. The current trend is to say that lower sugar levels retain a purity of fruit, and don’t mask the ‘terroir’ flavours with hefty ‘over-ripe’ fruit flavours that the berry develops as ripening continues. The belief is that more elegant characteristics show through the wine when big fruit is not present – things like minerality, one of the more obscure characteristics to observe in wine. All this is good and well, but it’s quite snobby to say it’s the only way to express terroir. Though over-ripe flavours are quite pungent and can overwhelm the softer flavours, you’re throwing science out of the window if you claim they aren’t a manifestation of the terroir; as much as the soft sea breeze is terroir and those snails and bird nests that fell into the harvester as well as all those times a vineyard worker couldn’t make it to the bathroom to relieve themselves are terroir too!

When ‘terroir’ was coined as a term, it’s unlikely that the poor French, medieval, illiterate farmer knew the weight it might carry one day. But if anything can be taken away, it is to refrain from the idea that terroir can only be expressed by one recipe: if it’s on the farm and in the wine, it’s terroir, as far as I’m concerned. Let no one tell you that there’s a quantified ranking system to assign what the ‘best’ elements of terroir are. The choice is up to you to decide which method you think makes the best wine. Comparing those methods is a story for another day.

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