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New World Wine Maker Blog

Spring has sprung – Daisies, Darling and Drinking

It’s spring across the southern hemisphere, the sun is trying its best to peak out from behind the thin grey clouds that hang over Cape Town while the Suzuki engines are purring in anticipation for the day’s adventure. My parents recently joined the Suzuki 4×4 club, being an adventure fanatic, I couldn’t resist the offer when they asked me if I’d like to join them.

The day started out at the entrance to Groote Post Farm, where the Suzukis rolled in one by one. We had arrived in the Grand Vitara, thinking there would be a few other Suzukis slightly bigger than the Jimny joining us, we were sorely mistaken. Being the only non-Jimny Suzuki in the club, naturally we stood out like a sore thumb, but the crew were welcoming nonetheless. Mr Duckitt (Yes, that Duckitt) started off the morning by explaining to us that the farm has a large area of natural renosterveld, and through the clearing of alien plant species such as port jackson and rooikrans, they have encouraged a huge bloom of natural flora. The wild flowers on this farm sure gave the west-coast national park a run for its money! With splashes of bright orange, dainty pinks and purples and sunshine yellows, it was hard not to be blown away by the beauty of the flowers. The sun decided to grace us with its presence at about 11:30 am, allowing for the flowers to be viewed in their full, colourful glory.

As we turned our heads to face the daisies while driving past, the white flowery fields could easily have been mistaken for a bit of misplaced snow. We slowly drove along the track through the game camp on the farm, as the farm owner Nick Pentz took the lead. Wildebeest and Zebra were scattered in small herds throughout the camp, with a few Bontebok grazing happily between the brightly coloured daisies. The Springbokkies were very alert and unfortunately took off as soon as they saw us approaching however we were able to sit quietly and watch a few of the youngsters playfully prong and pounce around.

We stopped at the top of a hill that overlooked most of the farm, where Nick enthusiastically explained to us that while the farm may be well known for its wine, other crops such as Lupins and Triticale are also actively grown on the farm. He went on to explain the importance of crop rotation as well as how important it is to conserve indigenous flora on the farm. The farm actively works on the removal of alien trees, during the process they have decided not to burn any removed plant material, instead they pile the material over their old growing area. This prevents regermination of any remaining roots while encouraging a small ecosystem through providing a habitat for small rodents, which eat the seeds of the alien plants. He then explained the layout of his vineyard blocks, as bystanders got very excited at the prospect of a sneaky wine tasting before we continued our journey.

Following the interesting talk presented by Nick, we headed towards the cellar, I was sure that excitement was buzzing all around as we made our way to the parking lot near the cellar. Low and behold, an entire tasting had been set up just for us! The scene was set by the surrounding farm buildings that boasted an old Cape Dutch style, a table was set below an old tree that shaded most of the lawn. A flight of wines were lined up, ready and waiting to be popped and cracked open.

Of the wines we tasted, the 2013 Riesling and the 2013 Merlot definitely stole the show. It became very evident that Groote Post wasn’t only passionate about conservation, but also about the wines they produce. Nick is also very clearly involved in all aspects of the farm’s activities, as he went on to explain the wine making process for each wine we tasted, despite not being the winemaker himself. It was incredibly refreshing to meet someone in the industry who is involved in all aspects of the viticulture, farming and winemaking processes.

After cleaning out the cellar’s 2013 Merlot wine stock, we finally headed to our next destination. We drove along a winding dirt road that lead us past a few farms that also had fields of flowers, bright pops of yellow and orange flickered by as we headed towards Darling. We ended off the tour at the Darling Wildflower show, where the smell of boerewors braais drifted through the music filled atmosphere, the beer and wine stands were the easiest to identify because there were crowds of people buzzing around the tents. All in all, it was a great day and a lovely adventure that I can’t wait to re-visit next year when the flowers pop up again.

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Meet Attie Louw – winemaker at Opstal Estate

Q. When and where were you born ?

“I was born in Cape Town on 23rd September 1984.”

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

“I was lucky enough to study at the University of Stellenbosch where I did a BSc Viticulture and Oenology.”

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

With some deep thought and then a smile. “No, nothing too special. I think I have a good mix between a sound scientific and some creative flair !”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ? 

“Not as much as I would like is the truth. It helps that in our set up at Opstal we have very reliable people in My Dad Stanley, my brother Zak and our long time farm manager, Gerhard, who spend their days in the vineyards.”  Then adds “Lucky souls !!”

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

Without hesitation “Chenin blanc for sure. The expression of this grape on different soils on our farm alone and through different conditions is continuous amazement to me.!”

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

A fairly serious answer “I really have a network of mentors. I probably learnt most from my Dad. His knowledge of our farm and the industry along with his practical ability are skills worth aspiring to. Then I also look up to my peers and fellow winemakers. I feel very comfortable in picking up the phone and discussing certain wines, techniques and ideas with friends in the industry, learning a lot from them in the process and here I should single out my good friend David Sadie who is always willing to share his knowledge.”

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

With a very serious expression “This is obviously an uncomfortable topic for a modest Afrikaans boytjie to talk about……if I have to name something I’d have to say the identification of Opstal as a wine destination and the effort of showing our Slanghoek terroir for chenin blanc in our old vine Carl Everson Single Vineyard wine and our other Chenin examples in both single varietal wines and Cape White blends.”

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

Again with a serious expression “It’s so difficult to have differentiating factor these days in such a competitive market other than the personalities involved. So with myself as with my father and the rest of my family involved, it is the heart and personality we put into and behind the wines that should add the difference. …….and, of course, being from Slanghoek!”

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

Almost matter of fact “Really not at all. We use the precious resources of time and personnel in such a way that we can plan well enough not to be drowning in grapes or juice during harvest, for instance.“

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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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