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New World Wine Maker Blog

Non-Saccharomyces yeasts, MLF and Chardonnay flavour

by Heinrich du Plessis & Neil Jolly. 

This study follows similar studies done by us on Chenin blanc and Pinotage. The aim of this study was therefore to determine the effect eight different non-Saccharomyces yeast strains had on MLF and Chardonnay flavour.


Wine production includes two important fermentation processes, i.e. alcoholic fermentation conducted by yeast, and malolactic fermentation (MLF) conducted by lactic acid bacteria (LAB)1. The yeasts drive alcoholic fermentation by converting sugar to alcohol, carbon dioxide and other secondary compounds that affect the aroma and taste of wine.1,2Malolactic fermentation contributes to further flavour complexity and microbiological stability of the wine, as well as the reduction of total acidity. During MLF, l-malic acid is decarboxylated to l-lactic acid and CO2. White wines do not usually undergo MLF, but it is desired in the production of certain full-bodied white wines.3,4

At the start of alcoholic fermentation, a large number of non-Saccharomyces species may be naturally present in the grape must, but the final stage of fermentation is usually dominated by alcohol-tolerant Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains.1,5 Non-Saccharomyces yeasts have different oenological characteristics to S. cerevisiae and they have been shown to enhance aroma and improve complexity of wines.5,6 During alcoholic fermentation, both Saccharomyces and non-Saccharomyces yeasts deplete the nutrients found in wine. These deficiencies, combined with toxic metabolites produced by the yeasts, can inhibit the growth of LAB.1,7,8 Despite considerable research, MLF remains a difficult process to initiate and control.9 The interaction between non-Saccharomyces yeasts and LAB is another factor that needs investigation.

Materials and methods

Eight non-Saccharomyces yeast strains (one Candida zemplinina, two Lachancea thermotolerans, one Metschnikowia pulcherrima, one Hanseniaspora uvarum and three Torulaspora delbrueckii) were used in mixed fermentations with one S. cerevisiae wine strain. Yeast strains were commercially available cultures or were obtained from the ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij microorganism culture collection. Yeast treatments without malolactic fermentation (MLF) and in combination with simultaneous MLF were investigated. A commercial lactic acid bacterium culture was used to induce simultaneous MLF. In total 18 treatments were evaluated in triplicate, and the Chardonnay wines produced with S. cerevisiae with or without MLF, served as the reference treatments. A standardised small-scale winemaking protocol was followed at an ambient temperature of 15°C. After completion of MLF, wines were bottled and subjected to descriptive sensory evaluations four months later.


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Where do we go from here?

As the end of the year rapidly approaches us, some of my colleagues are bracing themselves. They have completed their undergrad and (trusting that exams go well) they will be joining the professional industry next year.

If you had asked us what we wanted to be one day at the beginning of the journey that is studying, we would have all said we want to be winemakers. Now that  the end is near for some that question seems to be more grey. In general they have a good grasp of what we are doing for the 2019 harvest. After those 6 months it is anyone’s guess.

So what actually are our options?

The first one seems quite obvious: continue studying. The research bug hit some of us hard when doing our final project reports. The world we live in is fascinating and understanding even a fraction of it in detail is a privilege not afforded to all. The thing about going to higher qualifications is that at the least it is another two years at university. For some this is exactly what they want. For others, after graduation, you are going to be left staring at a comical poof of dust shaped like them as they are already at the airport waiting for their flights.

The second option is to actually go and be a winemaker. Once again this is loaded, you don’t normally just waltz out of university and straight into the head winemaker position. This is for a good reason: we simply do not have the experience to handle it. Being in charge of a few hundred barrels or one massive tank is one thing, being in charge of a whole cellar is another barrel of wine entirely. Most of whom are doing harvests next year are becoming harvest assistants,  a better position than an intern and the benefit of being able to come home and relax, not work on research reports or literature reviews.

Now looking at more alternative options, for all of these extra courses will need to be taken, some of us have already taken them, others are researching options and some of us think these are horrible ideas. I give you these options, dear reader, not only to show you how diverse our chosen industry is, but how diverse we as individuals are.

Wine marketer: The background of our degree gives us an amazing understanding of the intrinsic product and allows us to see the broader picture of the industry and its needs.

Auditors: *gulp* Not the most loved people in industry, however there input is a necessity to allow us to stay up to standard and comply with the law. Some people have a nack for this sort of business, and are wholeheartedly pursuing this career path.

Sommeliers: It always seemed glamourous to stand around drinking wine and convincing that guest with a heavy pocket that the 2009 is better than the 2011. To become a somm you need to train, a lot, and the training doesn’t end, you have to keep practicing and reading and staying up to date with new trends and new winemakers that are shaking up the industry.

Wine buyer/seller: For resturants, shopping malls, wealthier members of society, a wine buyer is an important thing. Bench marking the standard that your guests will drink and going to find new and interesting wines for you to enjoy and sell. The admin behind this requires skill and dedication, it must be easy to get lost under all the paper work!

Viticulteralists: If working outside in the blazing sun for 8 hours of the day in summer sounds like your cup of tea then by all means go for it. Don’t let my bias taint your curiosity. There are many things you can do in part of industry: grafting new vines, planting new vines, growing and selling grapes, management of farms etc. I must say the idea of cross breeding a new vine and immortalizing myself through its name doesn’t sound half bad! Some of my class mates will go into this part of industry and revolutionize the way we plant grape vines forever (no pressure).

I hope if there are future prospective students reading this; it has given you some insight into what you can do with a Viticulture and Oenology degree. For those who are in industry that have been stuck in a rut: look around you, there are opportunities everywhere! For the rest of my readers: I hope this has given you some insight  into what we can do in this diverse and amazing industry.

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The Cellar Workout Routine

3 reps of 2 set. 5 minutes rest. Repeat. There is no need for a gym contract while working in the cellar. Upon completion of my first harvest I felt fit, strong and healthy. As the grapes arrive I jump unto a barrel and start scraping the berries out manually with a plastic fork exercising my calves and biceps. After tons of berries has successfully been loaded into the press, I jump off the barrel and start mixing yeast. The more grapes you have, the more juice you will have and the more yeast is needed. I mix and mix and mix exercising my fore arm muscles with the image of Popeye popping in to my brain more often that wished for.

After the lag phase of the yeast is completed I move on to exercising my gluteus and thighs, carrying up 2 buckets of 20kg each up the stairs to the lifted red wine fermentation tanks. I add the yeast, take a breath and run down the stairs to bring up the next two buckets of yeast. Up and down the stairs, 3 reps of 2 sets.

After the yeast is added, I exercise my brain. Each day monitoring fermentation by taking sugars and temperatures and neatly updating fermentation graphs. A brief rest is taken as the moon shines in the sky. As the sun rises I’m already doing cardio, running through the vines and picking grapes. The whole cycle starts again. Not to mention the sun-bed free tan the sun offers.

Pump overs offer colour extraction not only to the fermenting red grapes, but also to my glowing cheeks. Moving juice filled pipes from tank to tank to successfully wet all red grapes tones my back whilst increasing wine quality. 3 reps of 2 sets.

After fermentation, I carry on to experience my abs on the bottling line. Bend down, pick up bottles, do a slight twist and place the bottles on the bottling line. Over and over and over again. As bottling finishes, six freshly bottled bottles are packed into a wine box and sorted neatly in a big warehouse, offering my biceps a good challenge. 3 reps of 2 sets. Repeat.

Harvest is a crazy, adrenaline, endorphin filled period. Running on excitement and very little sleep is what every winemaker and intern goes through while making wine. For me, the biggest perk was the free workout the cellar offered. A daily full body workout whilst exercising your brain and enriching yourself with hands-on knowledge of making wine, being a harvest intern eating guilt free lunches and enjoying much deserved ice cold beer, is a privilege.

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Meet Clayton Reabow, Winemaker at Moreson

Q. When and where were you born ? 

“I was born in the very small and humble Eastern Cape town of King Williams Town in 1982. I eventually attended Dale College from Grade 1 to Grade 12. I left “King” in 2000 to pursue my dream to become a winemaker.”

Q. Where did you study and what qualifications did you achieve? 

“I completed my B.Sc Agriculture in Oenology and Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch in 2004 and set about starting my career.  In between completing some local vintages, I travelled to other wine producing areas such as Bordeaux in France and the Mosel in Germany to broaden my horizons. On returning to South Africa, I applied for the winemaking position at Moreson in 2007 and have never looked back!”  He continues  “In addition I completed a Post  Graduate in Wine Business Management, Cum  Laude at the University of Cape Town in 2011. “

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

“I have derived my winemaking from my friend and mentor, Gerald Ludwinski “Keep it simple and do the basics right.”  I personally believe that we are making the best wines we have ever made by sticking to these principles. We are constantly innovating, but also adhere to these basic rules.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyards ? 

“Luckily I pride myself on my Honesty. Most winemakers like to say that their beds are in the vineyard. This is not to say that I or any other winemaker does not spend any time in the vineyard, it is just that winemaking is an all-consuming position especially if you factor in marketing and travel. I also personally dislike winemakers who take credit away from the Viticulturists and from the farm managers who work on their respective estates. Moreson is a small estate relative to what is out there. Even if we insist on employing a Viticulturist whose sole purpose is to tend to the vines.  My role , as the  winemaker is to ensure  our stylistic approach  and direction is well communicated with this person and effectively ensure  a good working  relationship between  the two  operations. I spend as much time as I need in the vineyards  ensuring  we receive what we require  for the subsequent vintage. My role is strategic more than it is practical. I always insist that I personally visit each grower in Franschhoek myself together with the viticulturist. Manicuring a good, business relationship supersedes telling people what to do.”

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

“No doubt, Chardonnay and Pinotage. “

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

Burgundy is one of the most captivating wine regions in the world expressing their wines as single sites or single vineyards. Their history of wine production is fascinating dating back to the11th Century when the first Cistercian monks started to experiment with wine and in doing so finding the best vineyard sites suitable for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which would later be classified as village, premier cru and grand cru.  Their vignerons are true farmers who all possess a humility and honesty which is refreshing to experience. What I respect the most is how understated they and their wineries are. There are no ostentatious winery entrances, or large winery signs. Instead they focus purely on their vineyard sites and resulting wines.”

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

“Off the top of my head, being awarded Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year in 2009. That was very special and so was being a finalist in Diners Club Winemaker of the year in last year’s competition.” After some thought  “My greatest achievement , I believe,  has been working with in a team  for the past 11 years that has transformed the image and identity of Moreson wines”

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

“I believe what makes us different as a producer is my constant desire to challenge our wine growing and winemaking techniques. Our approach in the winery is certainly non-conventional. I dislike the conformity of wine production and wine preparation.  We are always testing ways  and means  to eradicate  the use of additives in the winery and replacing them with materials  that are more  natural and derived from our own cellar. For example, if I feel we can get away from not adding bentonite to wine without compromising the heat stability of the wine, we will do so.”

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

“Modern winemaking equipment such as automated sorting tables and optic sorting tables are an essential and expensive practice in wineries. Those wineries whose budget can afford such items and if used correctly, will add  value to their final product. Wineries whose brands are based on consistency year on year rely heavily on such machines in order to ensure and promote the health of fruit.  We make use of a pellenc automated sorting table to ensure incoming fruit is extremely healthy.”

Q.  The future ?

“South Africa is arguably producing some of the world’s best wines. No other wine producing country is gifted with a collection of talented winemakers willing to break the conformity of wine, take risks and continually strive to do better. I still we need to impress the world with just how good our wines are.

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Whimsical Western Cape Wine Wonderland

The hottest wine topic of September 2018 undoubtedly had to be the annual Cape Wine show. I’ve always wondered what Alice must have seen and felt after falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, and as I walked in to the showroom this year I got a very vivid idea of how she felt.

With the Flagstone carousel slowly spinning to my right, the bright pink ‘One Night Stand’ where the flirty Illimis wines waited towards back of the room and the bright disco ball and western themed tower of the Hemel en Aarde’s wines that shone throughout the room, it was hard to fight off the bewilderment that swiftly overcame me. I took a deep breath and took a step into what seemed like a Western Cape Wine Wonderland.

I started off my wine tasting adventure at the Flagstone stand, which was based on a rotating wooden stand, with pictures of their various wine ranges and winemakers on display. After spending a few minutes on the winding wine stand, I made my way over to the Hemel en Aarde stand, where the winemakers were dressed in what seemed to be 80s themed apparel, sporting mullets (yes, you read that correctly), headbands, scrunchies and bright lumo coloured clothes. I met up with some classmates here, who were equally as enthusiastic about the top quality white wines we had tasted at the stand. The region’s stand had a big, shiny disco ball in the centre, which attracted a lot of attention as the winemakers went on to explain their phenomenal wines. The Cartology (Alheit vineyards) stood out for me, along with some other interesting wine styles such as the Mother Rock Liquid Skin (a skin fermented Chenin). It was a very informative event for any wine-lover to attend, the winemakers pulled out all the stops and showed me that you shouldn’t be afraid to try something innovative with your winemaking.

On to the next region, Swartland! I really did feel like Alice, making her way through the winding roads of Wonderland. The Swartland stand had a Chemistry/Sciency theme, with round bottomed flasks as spittoons and lots of plants growing in erlenmyers, I felt like I was walking into my grade 10 biology class again. Here, we received some very insightful advice from the winemakers, who told us to travel to as many international wine regions as possible and learn as much as possible while we are still young. Their red wines boasted an elegance in their body, with soft tannins and a good length on the palate. I was very excited to taste wines such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Berocca, Mourvedre and Malbec at these stands because they aren’t commonly made as single varietal wines in South Africa. Additionally, I managed to grab myself a taste of the amazing 99 point (Tim Atkin) ‘T Voetpad white blend at the Sadie Family Wines stand, which undoubtedly blew my socks off.

The Elgin region called to me next, with crisp Sauvignon blancs and fruity pinot noirs that would give the French a run for their money, it was hard not to be impressed! Directly behind the Elgin stand, I spotted an incredibly bright magenta pink stand with the words “One Night Stand” in big, bold black letters. Curiosity didn’t kill the Chesire Cat, so I figured I was safe to approach. Here, I was greeted by the very familiar and friendly face of Lucinda Heyns, the proud producer of Illimis wines. Her Cinsaut and Riesling are showstoppers, and suddenly the stand’s name made sense, because a bottle of either would only last one night in my house! Lucinda also works at the University of Stellenbosch and recently took part in a student driven event called Scion, wherein she inspired many of us with her passion and love for both the vineyard and winemaking process.

Moving deeper into the Wine Wonderland, I found myself at the familiar Durbanville stand (I’m from Durbanville) where I was greeted by another familiar face, Arno Smith (aka Koekdief, because he stole an entire cake from Klein Roosboom Boutique Winery). Here, a classmate (Ronel Heunis) and I tasted his new Saartjie range, which started with the Semillon because his Jack Russel, Saartjie, would go into the vineyard with him and eat the fallen Semillon bunches. We unfortunately could not taste the Semillon because the new vintage has yet to be released, however we did manage to taste the Petit Verdot as well as the Cabernet Franc and Bordeaux Style blend.

A little bit further down the road, Ronel and I stopped at the Neethlingshof and Kanonkop stands, where I was reminded of my great love for red wine while tasting the formidable 100 point Paul Sauer Bordeaux Style blend. I finished off my tasting adventure with the powerful Neethlingshof red wines; their Malbec was a definite showstopper wine and never disappoints, I couldn’t help but to give my mom a call and let her know that she needs to stock up on a few of their wines! The clock chimed 15:00, and I unfortunately had to make my way back out of the rabbit hole (to avoid the afternoon traffic on the N1), but I did not leave disappointed and look very forward to the next Cape Wine Show!

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An Academic Foray Into Complexity in Wine: An Analysis of Language

By Becca Yaemans of The Academic Wino.

You see it often in wine tasting notes: “the wine is complex”, or something along those lines. But what does “complexity” in wine mean? Is it complex because of the number of compounds contributing to the flavors/aromas and structure of the wine? Or is it complex because of what we perceive to be tasting/feeling when we drink the wine? Or is it a combination of these or something completely different? The answer isn’t straightforward, with the definition of complexity in wine being different for different people.

For many in the wine business, complexity in wine refers to the combination of flavors and aromas in a wine evolving over the course of a tasting session. The Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), “complexity is a desired feature in a wine and one which can result from fruit character alone or from a combination of primary, secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors.” However, it’s not as simple as plainly stating that a wine in and of itself is complex.  WSET doctrine continues, “only use the word ‘complex’ with context. It is not enough to say whether a wine is complex or not; you have to explain what provides the complexity.”

In academic literature, complexity in wine is an ongoing topic of study and one that has been met with mixed results. In general, studies seem to support the idea that complexity in wine is related to the number of aromas/flavors, balance, finish, etc., though understanding of the concept seems to differ between trained professionals and the average consumer (which shouldn’t be too surprising).

A new exploratory study, available online now and in print in the September 2018 issue of Food Quality and Preference, aimed to investigate how complexity in wine is perceived by “social drinkers”, with an attempt to identify specifically what characteristics were associated with the concept of complexity in wine.


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