So you want to join our community!

If you already have an account, all you have to do is

Use and continue

New World Wine Maker Blog


Q. Where were you born ?

With a big grin “According to my Grandfather it was in Scottsdene in 1989 but I like to tell everyone that I was born in Stellenbosch as my Mom grew up in the Elsenburg farming community  and my Dad grew up on the Kanonkop Wine Estate. So I come from a long family connection with the Stellenbosch wine industry.”

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

“I went to Elsenburg Agricultural College and graduated with a BA Agric specialising in winemaking in 2013.” He continues “While a student I worked in the Villiera tasting room and developed a love for Cap Classique.” “After graduating  I worked vintages at De Morgenzon, Chando, the Moet operation in California, Villiera and Domaine Grier in France. The Griers got me to do the Cape Wine Academy certificate course.”

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

With a bright big smile “Yes of course ! Doing what everyone else  does is boring. I’m pretty much open to anything new as long as it makes sense scientifically as well as financially !”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ? 

“So far not as much as I would like to but, now at Villiera, that will change in the near future.”

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

No hesitation “Yes, Merlot, whether as a rose or red . It has been my focal point for quite some time now, regardless of the knock it got from Sideways . I also find Mediterranean varieties exciting to work with, even more than Merlot, actually.”

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

“ No, one in particular . I suppose I’ve been influenced by different winemakers from different regions over time.”

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

With another big smile “To still have good teeth by the time I reach 50, but as a so called “snotgat” in the industry my biggest achievement is becoming just that, a winemaker.”

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

Another big smile “I could tell you, but then I’ll have to kill you !! A lot of what the younger winemakers are doing or trying nowadays are often frowned upon  by the more experienced winemakers  and vice versa. However, that’s life, like Don Corleone once said “The new overthrow the old , it’s natural.”

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

“My personal winemaking philosophy is a hands off approach  . So modern winemaking  equipment plays  a very small role, if any, in my approach to winemaking.”

Q. How about the future  ?

“Villiera is a very positive place to work which suits my positive can do attitude and the future gives me a great sense of adventure.”

Q. What do you do for recreation ? 

“I keep fit by power lifting and play a bit of rugby.”

Read article

Absolutely Positively Patriotic About Pinotage

I have never believed in coincidence. And I have never believed as strongly in that statement as I do when I talk about the existence of Pinotage. A series of very lucky and very fortunate events or a well-orchestrated blessing in disguise? I will tell the story so you can decide for yourself.

It all began one glorious day in the Boland town of Stellenbosch. It was the year 1925 and Professor Abraham Izak Perold – the very first professor of viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch – had decided to develop a new wine grape cultivar by crossing the delicate French varietal Pinot noir with the robust and easy-to-grow Hermitage (more commonly known as Cinsaut). As the late professor didn’t leave any notes on this experiment and why he chose these two cultivars, we have to guess that he had hoped to marry the desirable flavours of Pinot noir (that is difficult to cultivate under South African conditions) with the resilient growth characteristics of Cinsaut. So, by rubbing the pollen of the one (Pinot noir) on the flower of the other (Cinsaut), a new varietal was born – although it didn’t have a name yet. This was a little home experiment that Izak did in his garden at Welgevallen Experimental Farm. This is also where he planted the four seeds that had emerged from his experiment. It seems that after that Professor Perold had forgotten about his precious seedlings, as he left the university two years after that to pursue a career at KWV in Paarl. Along with it, he also left his home and garden at Welgevallen. Leaving it unattended, the garden became overgrown and a clean-up team was sent by the university to get the place back into shape. It was on the very same day the team was going to tidy up that the young Dr Charlie Niehaus (who thankfully knew about the seedlings) cycled by Perold’s old residence just in time to save the four seedlings (and therefore Pinotage itself) from being lost forever. Thereafter, Perold’s successor, Prof CJ Theron re-planted the seedlings at the Elsenburg Agricultural College. After a couple of years, Prof Theron grafted the vines onto strong, disease-free rootstocks and it was seen as another blessing in disguise, as the other older rootstocks was soon after found to be so disease ridden that they had to be destroyed. Perold often visited the experimental farm and it was on one of these visits that Theron showed him the four grafted vines. Perold was so impressed with their growth that he demanded they be propagated. It is also believed that the name “Pinotage” was also used for the first time on this day.

And so, we thank you Prof Perold, as well as Dr Niehaus and Prof Theron, for giving us Pinotage and making sure it survived all the perils and pitfalls. But now, who actually made the first wine from this exciting new, proudly South African varietal? A lecturer at Elsenburg, Mr CT de Waal, had the honour of making the very first wine from these grapes and the first commercial planting was on the farm Myrtle Grove, near Sir Lowry’s Pass. Although the grapes showed great potential with the initial plantings, having naturally high sugar levels, ripening earlier and staying healthy and vigorous, it is the wine that eventually almost destroyed our beloved cultivar. As the vines produced such large amounts of grapes, many farmers planted Pinotage for the production of bulk wines. Also, because of its dark, ruby colour, many producers stretched their wine as to produce even more with the result of a very thin and imbalanced wine. Many wine drinkers also experienced acetone (nail polish remover)- like aromas. These kinds of comments cast a shadow over the cultivar and it seemed like the varietal was doomed even before it had a chance to prove itself.

Most producers gave up on the cultivar after that, but a small group kept the faith and experimented with ways to improve the wine with special attention paid to what they did in the cellars. And by 1987, things had started to look up for our cultivar. Beyers Truter (then at Kanonkop) had just won the Diner’s Club Winemaker of the Year award with an inspiring Pinotage and thereby caused quite a stir in the industry. Wine collectors from all over flocked to their cellars and wiped down the dust from their old bottles of Pinotage. To their pleasant surprise, delightful flavours of ripe berries, chocolate and banana had developed over the years. The future of Pinotage started to look all the more promising, especially after Beyers Truter won yet another award for his Pinotage soon after that – this time at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in 1991 as International Winemaker of the Year. And after that, the world was hooked. Positive forums and comments from all over the world put Pinotage on the pedestal it so long deserved.

The rest, as they say, is history. Pinotage was put on the map and it is now here to stay. The versatility this cultivar lends itself to, is just one more reason to get excited about it. Whether you like the chocolatey, coffee-like Pinotage or the ripe berry, smoky and leathery style, there is bound to be a Pinotage that will tickle your taste buds. So, if you haven’t given it a try yet, what are you waiting for? Remember: local is lekker!

Read article

Taking a Good Look at Wine Labels

By Dr. Kathy Kelley

If a customer has never tasted the wine inside the bottle before “the label design and execution, as well as the verbiage,” can make or break a sale.  It is even suggested that at the point of purchase it only takes about 1.5 seconds for a wine label “to make an impact” on the consumer’s decision to purchase the bottle.

You may have wine labels that are well recognized and that your customers may respond, but it is also valuable to be aware of what some research suggests could attract consumer attention and what some brands are doing to encourage wine drinkers to “engage” with their bottle and (hopefully) share their experience with others.

Label illustrations, color, and design layout

While the “attractiveness” of a label is subjective, research has been conducted to identify label characteristics that appeal to consumers based on brand image (e.g., fun and whimsical) purchase intent (e.g., consumed at a restaurant, to give as a gift), and similar.

Screenshot 2017-06-16 11.18.18

Two University of California, Berkeley, researchers conducted a study during which participants evaluated wine labels to measure California Cabernet Sauvignon purchase intent based on six label colors, five illustrations, and three design layouts (Boudreaux and Palmer, 2007).  The researchers developed and tested 90 fictitious labels with the same brand name, origin, vintage, and alcohol content.  Though the images are black and white and only a subset of the 90 labels is presented you can get a sense of what the labels looked like by accessing the paper here:

Their results revealed that the illustration presented on the label had the strongest effect on “market success factors and on brand personality” and in general the images that received the highest purchase intent scores were: 1) grape motifs and 2) images of a chateaux or vineyards.  However, if the brand’s goal is to develop a label to convey “upper class and value,” results suggested that a coat-of-arms illustration would be the best option.

The researchers reported that of the colors they tested, burgundy, red-orange, and neutrals “were seen as successful, desirable, and expensive.”

Millennial preferences

While the UC Berkeley study did not segment the data based on generation to learn what Millennials might prefer compared to older generations, such data has been published.

A 2015 Gallo Consumer Wine Trends Survey revealed that the label is important to Millennials, and wine drinkers in this generation are “4X more likely than Baby Boomers to often select a bottle of wine based on its label” (  While the younger generation is “more likely to look for” labels with personality and originality, Baby Boomers look for information on labels that describe the region of origin and taste descriptors.

Elliot and Barth (2012) focused on understanding Canadian Millennials’ preferences for wine label design and personality. Participants, mostly 19 to 22-year-old undergraduates, were asked to list the most significant factor that influenced their wine purchasing decision.  Of the factors listed, 86% of the total mentions referred to an extrinsic [the package] factor (e.g., name of the wine, design layout, bottle) with 33.8% of all the mentions related to the “label,” followed by other “package elements,” color(s) (10% of the mentions), design (9.8%), the bottle (9.3%), and the image (9.1%).

Only 14% of the mentions pertained to intrinsic [the product] factors with the top three mentions being: the producer (6.1% of all mentions), type of wine (3.4%), and alcoholic degree (2.2%).  The researchers indicated that though the emphasis, at this point in their drinking career, is on extrinsic factors – it may be possible that “opinions and preferences” may shift to intrinsic factors as they age and their experience with drinking wine increases.

Participants were then asked to assign ratings to indicate how influential (1= not at all influential to 5 = extremely influential) six packaging characteristics were on their bottle selection.  The top three influential characteristics (rated between 3.83 to 4.00) were: label image or picture, design layout, and color.  Name of the wine, description of the wine, and shape of the bottle were less influential.  The authors point out that price was not tested, but if it was it probably would have “had a significant influence.”

Trying to learn what label factors appeal to certain generations is not restricted to just New World wine brands. Some wineries Bordeaux are designing labels that (hopefully) appeal to younger wine drinkers.

According to an article published in February 2017 (, the author interviewed two Bordeaux label designers about their approach to designing “non-traditional” labels.  One designer is quoted as saying, “The new generation of Bordeaux winemakers…[are] trying to break out from overwhelming history” by using “‘avant-garde’ design approaches.”  Another designer and the winemaker at Château Chasserat created a non-traditional wine called Père N 1775 (which includes the French word for father and the year the winery was created).  The associated logo has more of an Aztec feel/look than that of château or vineyard you would expect to see on a traditional bottle of Bordeaux.

Cultural influences

It is important to note that generation is not the only demographic that could impact response to wine labels, or any extrinsic or intrinsic characteristic.  Culture has been studied by a few researchers to learn how it may affect response to a wine brand, promotional approach, label/bottle characteristics, etc.

Lockshin and Cohen (2009) investigated what influenced consumers from 11 countries when purchasing wine.  Though examples of wine labels were not presented, participants were asked to indicate the relative importance of “an attractive front label,” in addition to 12 other factors (e.g., the origin of the wine, grape variety, promotional display in-store).

Participants were segmented into three groups based on their responses to survey questions.  While the smallest of the three groups, 16% of survey participants, one of the segments was based on making wine purchasing decisions based on displays, attractive front labels, and back labels.  A quarter of respondents from the UK were in this group, with slightly fewer Austrians (22.5%), Germans (20.9%), participants from the USA (16.4%), and Brazilians (15.4%) belonging.  Ten percent or fewer of participants from Australia, France, Israel, Italy, and New Zealand, and Taiwan were assigned to this group as larger percentages of these consumers made choices based on recommendations/previous experience or based on variety, origin, brand name, and awards.

“Cool” and interactive wine labels  

Last year, Pace Magazine published a list of seven wine bottles with labels that drinkers could play with, including one that revealed a “secret message” when a little bit of wine is poured on it and another that had a pull tab that served as a wishbone (  Add to this the other online sources that create their own annual lists: Tasting Table (, Forbes (, BuzzFeed (, and many others.

While the graphics, layout, and colors used on the label certainly attract purchasers, there are several brands that have added a Quick Response code (QR code; to their label.  The code, when scanned with a smartphone QR code reader, directs the consumer to a website with other pertinent information about the winery, the particular wine in the bottle, videos, social media sites, or anything that the winery decides.

One such brand is Brancott Estate in Marlborough, New Zealand.  The company developed the “Brancott Estate World’s Most Curious Bottle” app ( in 2012 so that wine drinkers could “interact” with bottles of their Sauvignon Blanc.  I have included some screenshots that I took while I was using the app, below.

Screenshot 2017-06-14 13.41.02

While I did have a bottle of the wine that I could use for this demonstration, if you do not have one you can use a picture of the bottle/QR code (from one of their magazine advertisements, for example) and certain app activities are available on app even if do not have a bottle/photo.

A Spanish wine brand, Bodegas Vihucas (Toledo, Spain) has created a blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, and Graciano called 8 TICKETS(; retail price of 9.60 euros).  The label is a metro map that when removed from the bottle (held in place with two stickers), after which it becomes a “game board.” includes directions on how to play the game, and has a space for the drinker(s) to color, draw, and decorate with stickers.

While I don’t have a picture of the bottle/label/game board, as the wine is only available a few Spanish markets (, they do have a Facebook Page with reviews ( and Instagram account with images of the bottles and groups of drinkers having fun with the label/game board (  I did contact the brand and was informed that 8 TICKETS will be available in the U.S. “soon.”

As you might expect, the 8 TICKETS concept and label was developed to appeal to the Millennial wine drinker.  Specifically, the aim of the 2016/2017 A’Design Award & Competition Packaging Design Category winner was to “bring wine to [Millennials] through a memorable and participative experience…show young people all the situations in which wine can be a regular consumption product rather than being reduced to [only being drunk on] special occasions” (

If you would like to learn about wine and alcoholic beverage product and packaging trends as soon as items launch, visit  You can learn about the new Coors Light can that changes colors when exposed to UV light rays (currently available in the Canadian market,, Croatian wine that is aged in the Adriatic Sea in glass and clay vessels for 2 years at a depth of 20 meters (, and drinkable glitter flakes with a “subtle raspberry flavor” that can be added to a glass of prosecco for an even more sparkling wine (

What is presented in this blog post is just a small portion of the studies and examples of wine labels/bottle characteristics that appeal to consumers.  At Penn State, we have conducted several studies that investigated consumer response to a number of different wine bottle components.  Among the data that we have published in this blog, one study, in particular, focused on what information and features a winery should consider including on the back label (  As with other marketing information we post, it is crucial to understand who your customer is and ask them to respond to your label ideas before making any significant changes or investments.


Boudreaux, C.A., & Palmer, S.E. (2007). A charming little cabernet. International Journal of Wine Business Research, 19(3), 170-186. doi:

Elliot, S., & Barth, J.E. (2012). Wine label design and personality preferences of millennials. The Journal of Product and Brand Management, 21(3), 183-191. doi:

Lockshin, L. & Cohen, E. (2009). Using product and retail choice attributes for cross-national segmentation. European Journal of Marketing, 45(7/8), 1236-1252.

Read article

Debating terroir

I know that terroir has perhaps been misused on occasion, scapegoated, cannibalised, but we are all on the same page that it is real, right? I recently read an article in response to a book challenging the ’myth’ of terroir. The writer in this article was, in all fairness to him, also having gripe with the book’s claims against the Shamanism of Terroir.

Now, I know that wine culture wrote the guidebooks on running away with romanticism, so there’s plenty to fight about: natural fermentations, old vines, biodynamics, new or old wood, etcetera,etcetera. The list goes on and on, catalyses its own perpetuation, loops the loops and rewrites itself everyday, but I don’t think terroir deserves to be on that list. It just has a bad name, or it just lacks definition.

I’ve said it before, terroir is just the environment the vine grows in. For me, that’s enough to convince me. Only the psychotic would tell you a burrito isn’t composed of a tortilla wrap, meat, rice, black beans and whatever other delicious things you want to put in there. He might say it’s actually made of other things like apples, paper clips and the gaps in the pavement. Soil, water, sunlight and a vine. At a basic level, that’s all you need and you should get some grapes. Every vineyard in the world has these four parameters to different degrees: add a lot more sunshine and grapes have higher sugar levels relative to phenolics; add a lot of rain and clay and you have vigour. No two sites have the same ratio or quantity of each of these ingredients. Thus, they are unique.

Of course, when people really talk about terroir, they want the gory details. They want to know that alluvial deposits 20 million years ago have put stones and silt high in Calcium Carbonate in certain sublayer of the soil, this Calcium content gives the wine the slightest of chalky undertones on the palate. It is harder to prove the manifestations of these minor geological details, as the effects are far more subtle than higher sugar levels or juicy berries. However, reasoning should lead you to similar conclusions: just as the trace vitamins in our diet greatly affect our health, so do trace elements in the soil effect a vine.

Terroir doesn’t need to be a story. As usual the beauty comes from stepping back and appreciating the glory of random scientific make-up; the true uniqueness of a site comes from these empirical differences of analysis – 2mm less rainfall in this particular ravine, 5% more clay content in the soil and so on. Every site has the potential (more or less) to be the same, the starting components are equivalent: it is on Earth, made up of decomposed rock, gets sun and rain. Much like the pieces of chess begin in the same place, and yet no chess games ever take place in the same manner, no two sites, and thus no two wines can be the same.

Read article

Wine Myths. Busted.

The wine industry, just like most other industries, is filled with countless myths that are made up by companies and countries to improve their wine sales. Sometimes the myths are just a different version of the truth or the truth has been tweaked slightly to make a story sound more captivating. Other times, the myths are so far away from the truth that it borders on fraudulent lies. Here is a look at some of the serious and not so serious myths that I have come across in the wonderful world of wine.

Corks are better than screwcaps

This one is a bit tricky as it of course depends on what you are talking about. Better for what? Aging a wine? In that case, yes, because the cork will let through slightly more oxygen than a screwcap over the long term. This in turn means that the wine in the corked bottle will age quicker that the one with a screwcap. But if you have wines that are destined for consumption right now, that extra exposure to oxygen is not such a good thing and it might lead to the development of undesirable smells or tastes i.e. spoilage of the wine. In that scenario screwcaps win. And in the practicality round, screwcaps are also victorious. How many times have you found yourself with a bottle of wine that is sealed with a cork, but there is no corkscrew to be found on this side of the Sahara? Too many times to count, right? And if you don’t feel like finishing that bottle of Chenin just yet, you can just close the cap and keep it in the fridge until later, whereas a bottle that had a cork will be much more exposed to oxygen if it is not sealed properly with something like a wine pump. Sure, corks are romantic and the sound it makes when it is pulled out of the bottle invokes nostalgia of candle-lit dinners with a loved one, but that image can be easily ruined without a corkscrew or if the wine smells like old feet.

More alcohol = less quality

This is a common misconception that has mostly been spread by European wine drinkers. South African wines have been criticised for years and years for having alcohol contents that are too high and being hard to drink. Before I start my defence, it is important to note that there are a few factors that influence a wine’s alcohol content. The most important of these factors are the style in which the wine was made and the climate in which the grapes were grown. Fortified wines are usually higher in alcohol because they were made by adding neutral spirits (like brandy) to wine to increase the alcohol content. However, wines that are naturally higher in alcohol have only climate to blame. Grapes that are grown in warm climatic conditions tend to ripen more rapidly and produce higher sugar levels. These very sugars are then converted to alcohol during the wine fermentation process. Therefore, wines produced from grapes from warmer climates will usually have higher alcohol contents when compared to their cool climate counterparts. Now, back to our European friends. Most wine producing regions in Europe are classified as having cool climates and even those that have warm climates don’t necessarily reach the same high temperatures or experience the same harsh conditions that we have here in South Africa. So, they are used to their soft, delicate, low-alcohol wines. And BOOM! This bold, robust South African red winds up on their dinner table and they are scared senseless. No need to fret, my fellow wine drinkers. Wines that are higher in alcohol doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to knock you off your feet. The quality of the wine, like the alcohol, is influenced by many factors. Maturation vessel (new oak vs old oak barrels, concrete or stainless steel tanks), wine style (soft and delicate or big and robust), residual sugar (sweet or dry wine) and maturation time (young or aged wine) are just some of these factors. A Cabernet produced in two different climatic regions can both end up having the same alcohol content, but their taste, aroma and mouth-feel might be different due to any number of the above-mentioned factors. So, don’t be so quick to judge a wine based on the alcohol content that is stuck on the back label- you might be pleasantly surprised by some of these “high” rollers.

France was the first country where wine was made

Sure, they have been producing wine for many more centuries when compared to us, the new kids on the block, but they most certainly weren’t the first ones in history to do so. The earliest archaeological evidence of winemaking in France is a limestone platform that was used as a wine press and dates back to 425 BC. However, evidence exists that wine was consumed in countries like China (c. 7000 BC), Georgia (c. 6000 BC), Iran (c. 5000 BC), Greece (c. 4500 BC) and Armenia (c. 4100 BC). Armenia is also home to the world’s oldest discovered winery. In 2007, a cave was found that contained a wine press, fermentation vessels, jars and drinking cups. Archaeologists also found old grape remnants like grape skins and seeds. These evolved relics also suggest that wine making technology existed some time before already.

Red wine should be served at room temperature

If we are talking about room temperature in Britain, then yes, you can serve your Cab right off the shelf. But here in our warm, South African climate it is best to chill your red wines to slightly below room temperature (around 15 – 20 °C for heavy red wines and 12 – 15 °C for lighter wines). Just pop your bottle in the fridge an hour or so before you plan on opening it and flavours and aromas will be at their optimum. Also, by cooling down a wine you might disguise some of the “off” aromas of a lesser quality wine. As for white wine, it is best served between 7 and 14 °C, while fruitier wines like Sauvignon blanc prefer the colder side of the spectrum and heavier whites that have been barrel-aged can be served slightly warmer.

Unfortunately, my time is up and I have only uncorked the big bottle of wine myths that are making their way around the industry. Hopefully I have helped you to realise that screwcaps might not be as pretty as corks, but they sure are the duct tape of the wine world. That France isn’t necessarily the best or oldest wine country in the world. And that your excellent quality, high alcohol red wine should be chilled before serving.

Read article

How to reduce the pinking potential of white wines

By Anton Nel of Wineland Magazine

When white wines with the potential to pink are exposed to oxygen, the phenomenon known as pinking occurs. It is common in Sauvignon blanc, but also occurs in Chardonnay, Colombar, Chenin blanc and Viognier.

Literature exists about the possible compounds and components that promote pinking, but not all findings concur and there is still much uncertainty about the cause of the phenomenon. Research into pinking is therefore ongoing. The following is a discussion of basic guidelines to reduce the pinking potential of white wines, but research is currently in progress and more comprehensive feedback will be given to the industry at the end of the study.


Reductive vinification

During reductive vinification the winemaker tries to eliminate oxygen (O2) as much as possible. The most common ways of doing so entail working with dry ice, inert gas or ascorbic acid. When ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is used during the winemaking process, the ascorbic acid is oxidised into dehydroxy ascorbic acid and hydrogen ions. In the presence of oxygen in the juice/wine the oxidation of ascorbic acid also results in the formation of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). This is a strong oxidative agent and SO2 is required to bind to it and neutralise it.


Keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • It is important always to keep the free SO2 concentration of the wine as close as possible to 35 – 45 mg/ℓ when working with ascorbic acid.
  • As soon as dry ice and inert gas are involved, it is important to keep the SO2 of the wine as close as possible to the above-mentioned values.
  • Ascorbic acid reacts with SO2 at a ratio of 1:1.7 and not 1:1 as generally accepted. It is therefore important first to determine the existing concentration of ascorbic acid in the wine before making any ascorbic acid additions or adjustments.


Metals in wine

Much research has been done on the effect of heavy metals (Cu, Fe) in wine. It is always good to analyse the wine for heavy metals and if the metal content is high, the free SO2 levels should be kept at a minimum of 45 mg/ℓ.



Read article