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New World Wine Maker Blog - wine

Read and drink at own risk…

labelIn 2003, South Africa’s Medical Research Council not only reported that alcohol abuse costs South Africa at least 9 billion rand a year, but that at least 50% of all road accidents and murders, as well as more than 60% of hospital trauma, are as a direct result of intoxicated individuals (1). In 2007, South Africa introduced mandatory health warnings on containers with alcoholic beverages, as well as a system of rotating warnings (2). In order to assess the effectiveness of health warning labels, it is important to understand the objective of these warnings: are they aimed at awareness and education of the consumer and to remind them of specific risks associated with alcohol abuse OR to modify the behaviour of the consumers (3)?

Research findings all seem to agree on one thing: warning labels and information increase awareness and influence social norms, but does NOT modify behaviour (2) (3). Researchers also conclude that health warning labels can only play a role when part of a larger range of strategies and when they are more varied and more noticeable to the consumer (4). In favour of these warning labels, it was found that consumers who are able to recall the warning labels, also associate with a lower rate of engaging in drinking and driving (4). In an Australian survey, it was found that almost 90% of respondents believe health warning labels should include a FULL list of ingredients, while 75% think kilojoule content should be indicated on labels. A recent headline proclaimed “Bottles of wine and beer could carry calorie warning labels to stop women drinking”.

On the flipside of the coin, there are some that argue that these labels are not just ineffective when it comes to changing behaviours and the impact is either minimal or non-existent, but also do not take into considerations the differences in consumers with regards to sex, diet, weight etc., all factors that will significantly influence the individual’s response to alcohol (4) (3).

While both sides of the argument have merit, we need to decide…

Will the knowledge of the kilojoule content in your favourite drink discourage you from enjoying it?

Do consumers have the right to full disclosure when it comes to labels and a list of wine ingredients?

Will a warning or picture on a label stop somebody who regularly drinks and drives from doing so?



1. Europe Intelligence Wire – Agence France Presse.
2. Health warnings and responsibility messages on alcoholic beverages – a review of practices in Europe. Walter Farke.
3. International Centre for alcohol policies. ICAP Reports 3. Health Warning Labels.
4. Centre for addiction research of BC. A Review Into The Impacts Of Alcohol Warning Labels Om Attitudes And Behaviour. Tim Stockwell.

Elda Lerm is a technical consultant for Oenobrands


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The Three Biggest Health Myths in Wine

Of all the health-related questions that end up in the Wine Spectator electronic mailbag, some get asked with a you-can-set-your-watch-by-it type of regularity. We’ve answered them before, and we’ll answer them again, but I thought I’d address these topics here with the help of Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, professor of enology at the University of California at Davis, to weigh in on the three most enduring topics.

Health Myth No. 1: Wine contains a lot of sugar

Health Myth No. 2: Sulfites in wine cause headaches

Health Myth No. 3: We know what component of wine promotes health

The full blog…
Exploring wine with Jennifer Fiedler of the Wine Spectator

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Let’s get ready to rumble…

In the one corner, weighing in at about 1500 to 2000 producers globally, we have the organic wine movement, going head to head with the new kid on the block, the natural wine producers, of which France alone accounts for about 400 producers. So who do you back in this fight? And let us not forget the greatest contender…the conventional wine producers.

Natural wines are made with minimal technological and chemical intervention in the growing of the grapes and the making of the wine. In contrast, organic wines are defined as wines that were produced from organically grown grapes, but may be subjected to chemical and physical manipulation in the winemaking process. The argument that natural wine producers have, is that wines from conventional producers become uniform. This means that they lack specific regional or varietal character after the winemaker and all his processes and chemicals are done with them. So why are the organic producers so upset about the new natural wine movement?

Organic producers have spent the last 20 years building up the organic brand, putting effort and money into creating quality products, only to have their reputation, in their opinion, possibly tarnished by wines now labelled as ‘natural’. And how many consumers will know the exact difference between these two competitors? Natural wines usually have unusual flavour profiles and are prone to flaws and faults, including oxidation and spoilage. In addition, very little information is available on the ageing potential of these wines. To add to this, organic wine production is subject to country-specific regulation, whereas no such system exists for natural wine…not yet anyway.

So the natural wine philosophy is: ‘nothing added or taken away from the grapes, must or wine’.

Is this the future of winemaking? Is this just a passing fad? Does it have a future? Or is it a real contender?

Cue Eye of The Tiger music…


Elda Lerm is a technical consultant for Oenobrands


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“There is a place I love in Africa, that they call the rainbow land…Chris de Burgh”

I could not help over the past few weeks to realize the challenges that entities may face as a result of diversity…diversity in just about everything, all starting with changes in  DNA. I started thinking about similarities between South African ethnic groups and what lives on grapes (forgive me, but I am pretty parochial as wine is not only my job, but also my hobby…)

South Africa as a multi-ethnic nation has diverse cultures, languages and religions. Eleven official languages are recognized in the constitution. English and Afrikaans are of European origin. Afrikaans originated mainly from Dutch ancestry and is spoken by the majority of white and Coloured South Africans. Though English is commonly used in public and commercial life, it apparently is only the fifth most-spoken home language. All ethnic and language groups have political representation in the constitutional democracy. About 80% of the South African population is of black African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different native languages, nine of which have official status. South Africa also contains the largest communities of European, Asian, and racially mixed ancestry in Africa…I bet you did not know this about our Rainbow nation.

Now I will not elaborate any further on political issues or leadership challenges, as this blog is mostly about the diversity that occurs on the republic of grapes. As winemakers, we are required not only to have a winemaking persona, but also to have personas that reflect our knowledge of chemistry, engineering, consumer behaviour, finance and many others. We are also required to know something about microbes, as they not only occur naturally on and in grapes and wine, but also direct our product in what may be acceptable for the consumer, or not. They may be friends or foes, and their diversity makes it challenging to manage, particularly if you do not know the basic elements that govern their existence…am I starting to sound like a politician?

Anyway, managing complexities efficiently probably start with understanding the magnitude of the challenge. I was utterly amazed when I took the book “Biology of Microorganisms on Grapes, in Must and in Wine”, and started counting what actually occurs on grapes and in wines. Now I am not a microbiologist, and I do not wish to quarrel about physiological differences between Leuconostoc oenos and Oenococcus oenos, but I do think even if some of these are anamorphs of each other, or genetically closely related and the differences insignificant, the diversity is quite darn amazing! The following is a table of “bugs” that occurs naturally on grapes and in fermenting wines and musts (and I did not count the sub-species…:




How many species?
Lactic   acid  bacteria Lactobacillus brevis


Leuconostoc mesenteroides


Oenococcus oeni


Pediococcus damnosus


Weissellas paramesenteroides


Acetic   acid- bacteria Acetobacter aceti


Gluconacetobacter liquefaciens


Gluconobacter oxydans


Yeasts Hanseniaspora  


Saccharomyces cerevisiae




Isn’t this amazing? Not counting strains and sub-species, Lactobacillus has more than 22 genera and species, acetic acid bacteria more than 18, and yeasts more than 26!

And the most important thing to remember, I suppose, is to either educate yourself as a manager that guides this immense diversity (“winemaker”) in the oenological principles, or surround yourself with people who can.

Wish some leaders could learn from this…

Bertus Fourie is a winemaker, turned Enology lecturer and creator of the Barista coffee Pinotage.


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The WINERAM Experience: Episode 2

Episode 2 takes place in Christchurch and the Greater Canterbury Wine Region with focus on Waipara and Pegasus Bay Winery.  Our presenters Jo Holley and Colin West have taken off from Queenstown and the Central Otago wine region and arrived in Christchurch to meet Ed Donaldson of the Pegasus Bay wine family.  From here Ed is going to join our presenters as they check up on the positive progress of Christchurch since the earthquake and explore the greater Canterbury and Waipara region before tasting wine and learning about the second stage of the winemaking process at Pegasus Bay Winery!

Check out the video of this Episode 2 on WINERAM website!

That’s a wrap!


The WINERAM Experience by Colin West



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Clone versus Site: Which is more important?

Yesterday my friend Daniel Dycus recounted a conversation he had the other day with a certified sommelier. Daniel told this fellow he thought grape clone was at least as important as site in determining the characteristics of a wine. The somm told Daniel that he would “sound like an idiot if he said that to someone who knows anything about wine.” Well, Daniel was not sounding like an idiot, because this somm doesn’t know diddly about clones, at the very least.

Simply put, in my experience, clone often trumps site—especially when it comes to Pinot Noir. For example we recently had the experience of moving cuttings from a vineyard in Napa Valley (near Coombsville) to our vineyard in Sonoma Valley (near Santa Rosa). Different soil, different climate, different rootstock, different vine spacing, different trellising, different farming—and yet the wine we have made from this block is recognizably more similar to the wine we made from the older Coombsville site than it is to the wine we make from the Dijon clones of Pinot grown at our site. For that matter, there are reproducible differences between the wines we make from the Dijon clones we grow at our site, differences that I recognize in wines made from the same clones grown at other sites.

That Daniel’s somm friend gets it so wrong is emblematic of a larger issue: a total misconstruction by the supposed cognoscenti of what is meant by terroir. This somm along with scads and scads of other “experts” has been taught that terroir is all about location, location, location. It’s not, and never has been, even in Burgundy.

John Kelly is the owner and winemaker of Westwood Wines, Sonoma California. This blog was originally published on his blog: “notes from the winemaker” on the 12 November 2012.

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