• The History of the new Premium Wine

    Within the last 20 years, wine in South Africa has experienced a true renaissance. Winemakers attach more importance to quality than quantity; the past has shown that too many yielded grapes are harmful to the winemakers. South Africa as a wine country has been in existence for much longer. In the middle of the 17th century, the first settlers planted vines on the Cape of Good Hope. After 200 years of constant growth and a boom, the end of the 19th century had severe problems of economic and ecologic nature. Cheap French wine and louse infestation made life difficult for the winemakers. The 20th century was defined by strictly regulated wine cultivation and political issues. The monopoly of the KWV inhibited a healthy development of the winemakers and the Apartheid made for political trouble.

    Dutch Doctor Plants first Vine

    In 1652, the ship’s doctor Jan van Riebeck founded a fort at the foothills of Table Mountain to provide Dutch ships with provisions. Early on, he decided to grow wine. This made sense as wine was considered to be a clean alternative to water for a long time which was especially important for sailors of these former times. The terroir seemed to be suitable for wine growing, so in 1655, Jan van Riebeck planted the first vine in South Africa.

    Simon van der Stel Founds Stellenbosch and Constantia

    Simon van der Stel is considered to be the founding father of South African wine. He founded the winery Stellenbosch in 1679 and another one called Constantia six years later. In the Old World, dessert wine from Constantia was popular as early as the end of the 17th century. Stellenbosch is known for its premium wines; as a matter of fact, most premium wines still originate from this region. Van der Stel’s traces are therefore noticeable even in the new millennium.

    Cheap Competitors, Vine Pest and Spoiled Wine

    As time went by, wine from South Africa developed into a popular product all over Europe. One of the largest markets was Great Britain which imposed an embargo on imports of French wine in the middle of the 19th century. This changed in 1861; the import was not only allowed, but lower customs made French wine significantly cheaper than its South African equivalent. Great Britain was no longer a suitable market.

    Slightly time-delayed, the vine pest affected numerous wine plants in South Africa in 1885. Some years ago it had caused much destruction on the farms in Europe. Vine roots could not take in any nutrients, and whole stretches of land became deserted.

    Despite these problems, South Africa’s winemakers put all their effort into creating wine in high amounts. In 1918, South Africa produced more than half a million hectolitres of wine. Large parts of it were spoiled though and could not be sold. The overproduction damaged price as well as quality of the wines. As a general rule in viticulture, it is said that higher yields and decreasing wine quality go hand in hand. Winemakers literally had to dump the wine into the rivers, thousand of litres of it.

    Cooperative and Trade Sanctions

    As a reaction to the many problems, the Ko-operatiewe Wijnbuwers Vereniging – abbreviated KWV – was founded. It was supposed to control demands and stabilise prices. Yet the monopoly position of the KWV caused new problems. In 1957, it introduced a quota system and restricted the areas that winemakers were allowed to cultivate newly. The cooperative also controlled the import of new grape varieties. This caused a stagnation of the wineries, which not only in the world of wines means a step backwards.

    In the 1980s, many nations penalized the regime in South Africa to protest against the Apartheid. Wine from South Africa could only hardly be sold or not at all.

    With the end of the Apartheid in 1994, the situation for the winemakers improved. Today, renowned wineries pay attention to premium wines to be at the top in the global competition, not only in terms of quantity.

    Article by Capreo.com
  • CORK OR SCREW CAP?

    Generally, vintners from South Africa use two different closures for their wine: cork on the one hand and screw caps on the other. There are always discussions about which closure type is the best, why you should use this or the other. Actually, the answer is rather simple: corks as well as screw caps are fantastic methods to seal a bottle. As so often, the personal taste plays the most important role here.

    Cork, a Tradition

    Not only in South Africa but worldwide, a bottle closed with a natural cork stands for a true premium wine. A good cork seals the bottle and protects the wine against bad influences. For many wine lovers, the great advantage is the material; the natural substance seals tightly yet lets tiny amounts of oxygen come through, too. Due to the slightly higher oxygen contact, the wine can potentially keep on maturing in the bottle which leads to very special aromas; connoisseurs appreciate this effect of cork especially for red wine.

    However, a wine matures further in the bottle without additional oxygen contact, too. As a matter of fact, there is no verified study that can link an especially good taste of a wine to additional oxygen contact. Furthermore, a cork closure also has disadvantages solely because of its material. If a bottle is stored standing, the cork can become brittle and not optimally close the bottle any longer. Penetrating extraneous smells can spoil the bouquet and taste. It can also happen that a cork develops 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, short TCA. This substance makes for what is generally called ‘cork taint’ which is an unpleasant taste in the wine.

    Screw Caps are Affordable, but by no Means just Cheap

    For some traditional gourmets, screw caps symbolize the decline of wine culture and a decreasing quality; although a screw cap unites the security of a cork without having its disadvantages. It keeps the bottle sealed and perfectly protects against damaging influences. As it cannot become brittle, bottles with screw caps can be stored standing; that makes the storage more flexible. Also, this closure does not develop substances that can influence the wine. Nevertheless it is not the case that a screw cap would prevent the maturing of a wine in the bottle. The bottling process always leaves a small rest of oxygen in the bottle; furthermore, chemical analyses have proven that no additional oxygen is necessary for the wine to keep on maturing. Just like with a cork, old red wines with a screw cap had matured into true showpieces after some years. Also, at only a couple of Cent per piece, a screw cap is significantly cheaper than a cork. A good cork, maybe even handmade, easily costs one Euro per piece. This is mirrored in the higher price of such a wine.

    Which closure is better, cork or screw cap, can really not be determined. Purely objective, there is much to be said for screw caps to be the winners. But the feeling, almost like a ceremony of gently removing the cork with a corkscrew, the silent ‘plop’ when opened is reason enough for many gourmets to pay a bit more. The occasion at which a bottle is opened seems to be important, too. For a romantic dinner for two, at which ambience and atmosphere are vital, a gentleman is likely to prefer the bottle with cork. For a big party at which many guests have to be satisfied, screw caps are recommended.

    No matter whether you prefer screw caps or cork, one thing is for sure. In both bottles, there will be South African wines of an equally high quality and you should enjoy this delicacy with all your senses.

    Article by Capreo.com

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