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New World Wine Maker Blog

The Effects of Wine Bottle Closure Type on Perceived Wine Quality

By Becca Yeamans of The Academic Wino.

How a winery chooses to close a bottle of wine depends on a variety of factors, from function to consumer perception/marketing. While natural cork closures are the more traditional choice, there has been a lot of technological advancement in the closure industry. There are

many different kinds of synthetic and technological closures on the market, from cork-alternatives to screwcaps, many of which are designed to optimize oxygen ingress into the wine, as well as minimize or eliminate the presence of cork taint.  Despite these technological advances, many wineries still prefer to use natural cork for their closures, as from a marketing perspective, cork is associated with the highest quality according to the average consumer.

Though much is known about the technical differences between wine bottle closures, very few studies in the academic literature have looked at closure type from the consumer perspective, namely consumer associations between closure type and wine quality characteristics. Other non-academic studies have been performed regarding this topic – for example, one year ago, a study by Wine Opinions in conjunction with The Portuguese Cork Association and the Cork Quality Council, found that consumers preferred the natural cork closure as they preferred the tradition and “romance” of pulling of the cork ritual, and that 68% of participants felt wine closed with natural cork was of higher quality.

While there are many of these types of studies out there, there aren’t as many found in the academic literature.  A new study, accepted into the International Journal of Hospitality Management (and currently available online), aimed to add to these relatively small number of studies by examining how wine closure type affects wine quality perceptions by the average consumer.

Brief Methods

This study took place on the campus of Washington State University in 2013 and recruited a total of 310 people (though only 299 were used for statistical analysis). Participants included students, parents, faculty/staff, and other members of the community …


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Back to the future – exciting and scary innovations in the wine industry

Written by Geena Whiting.

The industry we have committed ourselves to is forever expanding and growing. New ideas and innovations are on every horizon and the horizon is broad. Climb aboard the DeLorean with me and let’s see what the future holds.

Green Wine:

When talking about green wine, the slogan “going green” may cross your mind. While we encourage all sectors of agriculture to move to more sustainable and organic means, I am actually talking about wine that has a green colour.

There are many things associated with the colour green – nature, jealousy, the Grinch who stole Christmas and little green alien guys but wine? Surely that’s where we draw the line – its red, white or rose, the end of the story right? Wrong.  Vinho Verde the famous Portuguese wine, although the name literally means green wine the colour of the wine is actually white. What I am actually referring to is the Cannabis wine, much like the patented rooibos wine we have here in South Africa, the cannabis stalks are cold extracted and used as staves in place of oak during the wine making process. This leaves the wine with a green colour and a slight percentage of THC. Whether you want to legalize it man! Or not, you should defiantly give this wine tincture a try.

Blue Wine:

Everyone remembers those elegant blue creatures who took the world by storm, connected with nature and having a strong familial bond, naturally I’m talking about the Smurfs. Would you drink wine that is the colour of a smurf? Well there are a lot of people who do and this is how it’s made.

A blend of red and white wine is created and a rose colour is formed. Anthocyanin (The red colour pigment in red grape skins) is then added to the blend followed by the addition of indigotine plant dye. Which transforms the colour of the wine to neon blue, non-nutritive sweeteners are added and the wine is best served chilled.

So now when you are feeling sassy or sad there’s a wine to go with your mood!

Kosher wine:

Wine has been part of religious practices since the dawn of time, now there are ranges of wine that is prepared according to the requirements of Jewish Law. Zandwijk in Paarl, has gone above and beyond and become certified by the Cape Beth Din. All of the wines and juices are Kosher and Kosher for Passover. Whilst religiously adhering to the parameters of the Cape Beth Din, the modern and technologically advanced wine cellar allow for the wines to exhibit the terroir of South Africa.

This is untapped territory, will other farms take up the mantle and will we see more religious representation in the wine industry? Only time will tell.

Synthetic wine:

Also known as wine that’s not made from grapes.  A chemical product made in a lab consisting of all the  chemical compounds that make up wine – water, anthocyanins, flavonoids, tannins, fatty acids etc. It’s supposed to mimic expensive wines at a fraction of the cost so that the everyman will get to taste some of the most expensive wines without breaking the bank.

Do you think that this will catch on? Will there be space for both farms and labs on the shelves?

Vegan wine:

The push to become environmentally friendly is a growing trend that we should all get on board for. Vegan wine is becoming bragging rights for some farms and rightfully so. Wine can be made without the use of animal based fining products and still be as delicious and complex as it has ever been.  Basically it will taste the same and last just as long so why not be environmentally friendly too?

Wine in a can:

A recent article I read posed that while the more traditional wine drinkers opposed this idea, millennials love it. Speaking as a millennial, yes, yes we do.  Why shouldn’t wine come in a can, it’s much easier to recycle than these new plastic bottles and is more easy to transport than a big glass bottle. Sometimes we don’t want to have to finish the whole bottle and just sit back with a glass (a can) and drink our favourite drink. Whether this will catch on and become common place for every brand is doubtful, but it definitely has its place in the market and is better than plastic alternatives.

When your great, great, great grandchild has their first sip of wine what do you think the wine will look like?

For me, I hope that our traditional wines stick around like they have since the beginning but that does not mean there isn’t space for new ideas on the wine rack.

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Pruning Competition 2018

A short while ago, a discrete class pruning challenge was presented to us, wherein we each had to prune a row of what seemed like Shiraz vines gone rogue. After many hours (yes, some of us even took a few days) of snipping away at each vine, we finally managed to somewhat restore (or destroy…) the vineyard to a workable condition. These rows were then marked and judged according to skill, and the 6 pruners with the top scores were selected to represent Stellenbosch University at the Felco Pruning Competition in August 2018. Of the 6, the 3 candidates with the highest score were selected for or representing team while the other 6 were trained up – in case someone snipped a finger off, we’d need a backup!

The day of the competition had finally arrived, after weeks of training, our pruners were ready! The crisp morning air filled the lungs of the eager fourth year Stellenbosch students as we made our way down to La Motte’s vineyard. We were eager and ready to cheer on our three selected pruning champions as they prepared to take on the Elsenburg and CPUT students. Stellenbosch, being the underdogs for the last few years, had not lost all hope of winning, despite our formidable opponents.

The competition began with each competitor selecting a row, our three students (Cara Kroep, Anandi Theunissen and Francois Burger) were divided between rows 56 and 57. The supporting crowd (my fellow class mates and I) paced in anticipation, up and down along the outskirts of the two rows as we held on to our hopes for victory. The pruners filled the air with a snipping melody as the workers and students sped through the block, with only an odd ant’s nest or spider here and there to slow them down not much else stood in their way.

Anandi, painting a perfect picture of precision and focus as she made each cut, moved through her row, carefully analysing each and every bearer before making a decision. Francois sped through his row, being the first of the Stellenbosch students to finish his pruning, while making sure that each and every cut was smooth and clean. Cara, only slightly faster than Anandi, was calmly and quietly moving through her vakkies, also carefully looking at each and every point before making a cut. An ants’ nest, quaintly nestled between the two cordon arms, presented no challenge for Anandi, even when our Demi (student lecturer) poked the nest out of curiosity and all the ants came swarming out. She continued to prune despite the ant hoards marching towards her hands as she worked.

The class stood around, eagerly awaiting results; the heat was on, we had to finally show Elsenburg and CPUT that we’re not all about the science (not all the time anyways)! Our impatience grew as we waited for the judge to move through the rows, we had to know the results! After the marking and deliberation, we all sat down and munched on a few boerewors rolls and cold drinks, excitement and suspense buzzing between conversations, while the scores were tallied.

In the previous few years, Stellenbosch has had students place, but we have unfortunately never been able to out-compete the more practical Elsenburg and CPUT students. The pressure was on this year, all of the students came prepared for a challenge. We gathered around the quart yard, all holding thumbs for a win. Third place was called up, row 60, an Elsenburg student. Immediately our little strand of hope seemed to dwindle; second place was called up – row 59, also an Elsenburg student. By this point we had almost lost our hope to finally claim the title of 2018’s student pruning champion, “Row 57”, Jaco called. Nobody came forward, Anandi looked very confused for a moment, before three of the Stellenbosch students practically nudged her forward, excitedly telling her, “It’s you! It’s you!”.



At long last, Stellenbosch University had finally claimed the trophy! Our class all huddled around our three competitors, who all displayed extraordinary skills in the vineyard during the competition, our smiles all beaming. I can confidently say I know exactly who I am calling to come and help me in the vineyard one day! We were all incredibly proud of all 6 team members, who poured a lot of time and effort into preparing for the competition. Elsenburg and CPUT’s students also displayed remarkable technique in the vineyard, I was impressed by the speed and precision executed by all three of the competing institute’s students. Felco definitely gave us an amazing opportunity, allowing us to see students and professional pruners from around the country at work. I look forward to the future of viticulture and winemaking in South Africa, with such talented individuals leading the way.

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Meet Stuart Botha, winemaker at Tokara

Q.  When and where were you born ? 

“I was born in Durban, South Africa in 1985.”

Q.  Where did you study and what qualifications do you have ? 

“I studied winemaking and viticulture at Elsenburg Agricultural College, qualifying with a B.Agric Viticulture and Oenology in 2006.”

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

With a smile “That is a really subjective question.  I wouldn’t say that I am wildly different. I do like to experiment though, and that is where new and interesting discoveries are made. I also like to stay on the forefront when it comes to new technology. If I can implement something to make better wines, I’ll do it. “

Q. How involved do you get   in the vineyard ? 

“Getting involved with the vineyard and having a good synergy between viticulture and winemaking are imperative. The two go hand in hand. So many stylistic outcomes in wines rely heavily on practices that take place in the vineyard. That being said, I like to be very involved in the vineyard.”

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

“I am a big fan of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.”

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

“I wouldn’t say by a particular wine maker but I draw inspiration from other winemakers all the time, through general discussions and sharing of ideas.  It’s what makes the industry so great to be part of. I did two harvests in St. Emilion, France and that really did have a huge influence on me.”

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

“I have many achievements that I am incredibly proud of although winning the Trophy for the Best Shiraz at the International Wine and Spirit with my Eagle’s Nest Shiraz 2009 was a definite highlight.”

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

“I don’t suppose any really. I just do the basics as well as I can. “

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

“I have quite a modern cellar, and I am always looking for something that will assist me to make even better wines or even something new or different.  I believe that modern equipment and technology definitely play a role in making better wines. In the same breath, however, I am cautious not to take it too far, as it can sometimes lead to generic outcomes. It’s imperative to have a point of difference,”

Q. Anything else you would like to add ? 

“Following my studies, I joined Constantia Glen as an assistant winemaker. During my time there was when I journeyed to St Emilion to take part in two harvests. One at Chateau Bellefort Belclair and the other at Chateau Trianon. Where I obtained valuable experience. My first job as head winemaker was at Eagles Nest, where I was lucky enough to open their brand new winery.  I had an incredible ten harvests there and am proud to   have been part of growing the fledging winery into the incredible brand it is today.  While there I also explored the wine regions in Australia, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland gaining knowledge and tasting extensively.”

Q. And now ? 

“In September 2017 I joined the winemaking team at Tokara on the Hellshoogte in Stellenbosch which is world renowned for consistently producing some of South Africa’s finest wines, It has been a fantastic start and I am thoroughly enjoy working with the full array of Bordeaux varieties in this ultra-modern winery.

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Mix it up with wine mixers

Written by Geena Whiting. 

To some it may seem sacrilegious to mix wine with anything, yet for others the mixing of  red  wine with cola is standard practice. Although I myself fit into the first group of wine drinkers, I have explored my horizons with some delicious wine mixers/spritzers/cocktails. If you are as ready for your holiday as I am, you also need a bottomless cocktail on a beach somewhere. Cocktails/mixers can be quite pricey and I can’t be the only one who has thought “it would be cheaper just to make it myself”.  And you would be right! Here are a dew easy recipes for wine mixers for you to enjoy these holidays!

Ginger snap with a twist: A ginger lime spritzer


10 cm piece of peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger
60 ml of fresh lime juice
15 ml golden syrup
A bottle of your favourite brut sparkling white wine


Add ginger, lime and syrup to a blender with ½ cup of water and topped up with ice.
blend until the ice is broken into a beautiful slurry.
pour the mixture out in equal amounts into 4 large wine glasses.
pour your favourite bubbly over the ice mixture and enjoy!

We don’t drink pink drinks: rose cocktail


120ml  of dry / off dry  rosé
10 ml  gin
60  ml  ruby-red grapefruit juice
1 Grape fruit
1 rosemary sprig


Cut a slice of grape fruit and remove the skin and rind. Place it at the bottom of a lowball glass. Fill the glass ¾ full with crushed ice. Add the rose’, gin and grape fruit juice with a sprig of rosemary fir relish.

Keep it simple: White wine spritzer:


1 bottle Chenin blanc or unwooded chardonnay
500 ml Soda water
75 ml Lime cordial

mix together and serve!

This recipe is great because you can replace the cordial with fruit juice or use fruit bits such as pomegranate pieces to class up your drink.

It smells like Christmas: Glühwein:

1 bottle of bold dry red wine
1 cup water
1 cup orange juice
1 large orange, sliced (pips removed)
1/2 cup sugar
4 whole cloves
1 nutmeg, about 10 gratings
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, halved


Over medium heat in a medium sized pot, pour in sugar and and water, then add the slices of orange and the orange juice. Add the vanilla bean, cloves,  cinnamon stick, and nutmeg gratings. Bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour. The liquid will reduce, so after around 30 minutes, add in about a half cup of wine. This will make a syrup.

When your syrup is ready turn the heat down to low and pour in the bottle of wine. Bring back to a gentle simmer and heat for about 5 minutes or depending on how much alcohol you want to burn off you can simmer a bit longer. Ladle it into glasses and serve warm.
There are hundreds if not thousands of recipes to look at. With all of these the ratios can be altered and changed. Explore and be brave with your choices of fruit and wine cultivar.


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Grapevine Shoot Chips: A Novel Alternative to Oak Chips in Winemaking

The use of oak barrels in wine fermentation and aging increases wine aromatic complexity and improves overall quality. Despite a higher price tag, this technique is often used for red and some white wine aging. Due to higher costs, and other factors, many have sought alternatives that can produce a very similar style/quality wine at a fraction of the price. Most of you are already familiar with the use of oak chips in wine.  Oak chips are typically made from wood already utilized for wine barrels, and undergo similar toasting treatments to provide the aromas, flavors, and aging characteristics desired. Because of the increased surface area available by the small-sized chips, winemakers don’t need to use very many oak chips compared to the size of the barrel that would be needed to achieve comparable results.

Another way to impart oak flavors into wine, which isn’t as common but has been studied a bit in the literature, is oak extract application on grapes or grape vines. While studies have shown this sort of treatment may produce similar aromatic and sensory characteristics in the finished wine as a wood-aged treatment would, it’s likely just a way to get a “flavor now!” response and not a functional aging ability.

Of course, there are many other oak alternatives utilized in commercial especially home winemaking, but I won’t go into that now.

One new study, currently available online and to be published in print in October 2018 in the journal Food Chemistry, aimed to add one more potential oak alternative to the winemakers’ arsenal that I wasn’t expecting: grapevine shoots. Partially a response to growing demand for oak barrel alternatives, and partially a response to the amount of physical waste generated after the grape harvest, a team of Spanish researchers aimed to evaluate the use of grapevine shoot “chips” (toasted) as an alternative to oak chips in winemaking …


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