White wines can be tricky. Chardonnay is one of most popular ones on the market today, but many people still find it to be a bit too “oaky.” Sauvignon Blanc on the other hand, another top contender, is often criticized for being a bit too “grassy.”
No matter which white wine you select – whether ordering for your table at a restaurant or serving it while entertaining – there always appears to be someone who has something to say. Enter a rising star in the white wine world, a near-foolproof crowdpleaser that is neither too oaky nor too grassy: Chenin Blanc.
Originating in France’s Loire valley, Chenin Blanc is a grape that experts praise for its extreme versatility, with any two varieties from any two winemakers unlikely to be too similar.
Although the grape comes from France and the United States led the world in acreage in the 1980’s, South Africa currently leads the world in production, with the varietal resulting in over one-fifth of all vineyard plantings, producing about half the world’s supply annually.
It’s also been the fastest-growing South African varietal in the United States in recent years, up over thirty-five percent from five years ago. “I think it’s a fun grape for wine drinkers to explore,” said a Wines of South Africa rep.
To read more online, click here.
We had a chat with our cellar master/winemaker/viticulturist, Magnus Kriel about this year’s harvest season:
What was the total tonnages harvested for 2017?
What was the average tonnages per day?
400 – 600t/day
Percentage red and white grapes?
± 40% red and 60% white
How does this year’s harvest totals compare to those of 2016?
The crop is almost 12% lower than the vintage of 2016, more or less 2000 tons down.
What do you think is the reason for this?
Mostly due to “Black Frost” that we experienced during middle October 2016.
How does the white and red tonnage differ from last year?
Percentage wise it is more or less the same, no significant differences. However the white grapes were more affected by the frost, luckily we had some new plantings coming in.
Did the drought affect Merwida’s harvest?
It was very dry yes, but the days were not as hot as in 2016 so we managed to irrigate all our vineyards right to the end of harvest. Drought played a minor role I would say, although some farms and some blocks were affected more than others where the full irrigation cycle per week was cut into half due to low water levels in certain dams. We could still manage to bring in our crop at desirable sugar levels though.
Merwida had a very good year in 2016 regarding awards. Do you think this year’s harvest is of the same quality, and which wines are standing out for you?
Personally I feel that 2017 is better than 2016. The analysis of the grapes, juice and wine is a big improvement from last year. The early 2017 varietals, like the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chenin Blanc, looks very promising. It is still early days but the reds also looks really nice. It has exceptional colour and the intensity of all the flavours true to varietal character is also outstanding.
What is your overall experience of the 2017 harvest and your predictions for the 2018 harvest?
All and all it was satisfactory enough. The structural upgrades we did in the winery worked really well during the harvest. It was a very quick harvest with the lack of tonnage, but I would say one of the best ones quality wise. I hope that in 2018 the vineyards that were affected by the black frost would recover and be back to normal..
Via Breedekloof Wine en Tourism
Come Visit us at Merwida the 21st and 22nd of July for our annual Soetes and Soup Festival!
Today reaches the halfway mark with a big 7000 tons! Luckily our winemaking team still enjoys the endless days and long nights by doing what they love!
We are at yet another Weekend! Which means another exciting week of harvest has come to an end! Up to date we have harvested 1445 tons of white grapes and 200 tons of red grapes! We look forward to week 3 with long hours and busy days ahead!
Photo by Tina Hillier
Yip, we are at the end of our first week of harvest and also in February already! Although one week means only a glimpse of the harvest to come, we are glad that the week is over and that we could get back into making new, award-winning wines for all our fans out there. Thus far, we’ve harvested just under 400 tons of grapes – that’s only in 4 days!
Pinot Noir is often hailed for being utterly delicious, but it also happens to be one of the most versatile wine grapes in the world. This single red grape variety can be transformed to create not just red wine, but white, rosé, and sparkling wine as well. How on earth is this possible? It all comes down to the winemaking methods and the production processes that determine this little grape’s fate.
White Pinot Noir
If you were to cut open a Pinot Noir grape, you’d see that the flesh (the pulpy part) is actually a pale greenish yellow color. It’s actually the skins of the grapes that dye the juice a beautiful red hue, so if you want to produce a white wine with red grapes – the skins have got to be removed ASAP. This is the secret to white Pinot Noir (aka “Vin Gris”)
Of course, the red skins of grapes start dying the juice really quickly so winemakers work extra fast, usually opting to harvest on a cool morning and get the grapes to the cellar and pressed as fast as possible. The wine press used to make white Pinot Noir is a special pneumatic press (this style of press is used for white wine making) which crushes the grapes but filters off the skins and seeds. The remaining juice typically has a lovely, deep golden color.
How White Wine is Made
See how white wine is made differently than red wine.
Red Pinot Noir
Red Pinot Noir uses the red winemaking process.
Grapes are collected and put into grape crushers which drop the entire contents of the crusher into a tank (skins, seeds, pulp, and all!). Because Pinot Noir is such a thin-skinned variety, it often gets extended time with its skins (before and after wine making), in order to soak up as much of the red pigment as possible. In case you were wondering, these two processes are cold-soaking (before fermentation) and extended maceration (after fermentation). Some winemakers will even add the Pinot Noir stems into the fermentation to increase color extraction (it adds some bitterness but you get a whole lot more color and age-worthiness too!). After this whole process is done, you have a wine with a pale to medium ruby red color.
How Red Wine is Made
See how red wine is made differently than white wine.
Rosé Pinot Noir
Making Rosé is all about timing. The longer the skins are in the juice, the darker they dye the wine.
For Pinot Noir, this process looks a little like a combination of red and white winemaking. The grapes get crushed into a tank with the skins and seeds. Then the juice is monitored by the winemaker who takes samples every hour or so to check the color extraction. The moment she thinks the color is perfect, the winemaker strains the juice from the skins into clean tanks where the wine completes its fermentation. I’ve spoken with winemakers in both California and Oregon who say they’ve made rosé wines with less than 7 hours of “skin contact” time!
How Rosé Wine is Made
Learn about the different methods used to create rosé wine.
Sparkling Pinot Noir aka Blanc de Noirs
Start with white Pinot Noir and then ferment it again to make blanc de noirs.
This is the specialty of Champagne, including Jay-Z’s brand, Armand de Brignac, whose “tete de cuvée” is a special edition bottling of 100% Pinot Noir in a Blanc de Noirs style. To make sparkling wine, you essentially take a specially formulated wine (using perfectly underripe grapes that produce more acidity) and ferment it again in bottles so that the carbon dioxide can’t escape and it pressurizes the bottle, carbonating the wine. You can find Blanc de Noirs made all over the world, and almost always, Pinot Noir is the grape used for this wine (the other is a Pinot variant called Pinot Meunier).
How Sparkling Wine is Made
Learn about the different methods used to create sparkling wine.
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Open for over a week? It’s past its peak…
As a general rule, if a wine bottle is open for over a week it’s probably gone “bad.” There are, of course, a few exceptions to this rule, including fortified dessert wines (like Port or other wines with 18+ ABV).
Learn the secret to storing open wine for 2 weeks or more
How to Tell if Wine Has Gone Bad
An experienced drinker can tell almost instantly if a wine is past its prime. Question is, how do they do it? Well, this comes with a little practice, and here’s what to look for:
How it will look
Wines go bad when they are left open for too long. While some claim that open wines last for weeks, most will lose their luster after just a couple of days, so it’s wise to store open bottles properly. First thing to look at is the color and condition of the wine.
- Wine is cloudy and leaves a film in the bottle
- There are several wines that are cloudy to begin with, but if they start out clear and then go cloudy, this may be some indication that microbial activity is occurring within the bottle.
- It will begin to brown and change color
- A wine browns much like an apple does when exposed to oxygen. While ‘browning’ itself is not bad (there are several awesome “tawny” colored wines) it will tell you how much oxidative stress has occurred to the wine.
- It may have tiny bubbles
- The bubbles come from a second unplanned fermentation in the bottle. Yes, you just made a sparkling wine! Unfortunately, it’s not going to be delicious like Champagne, it’s going to be oddly sour and spritzy.
“Browning itself is not bad, but it does indicate the amount of stress the wine has undergone.”
What it will smell like
Second thing to observe is the smell. Wines that are “bad” could be for 2 different reasons.
- A wine that has a wine fault. About 1 in 75 bottles has a common wine fault.
- A wine that was left open too long.
A wine that’s gone bad from being left open smells abrasive and sharp. It will have sour medicinal aromas similar to nail polish remover, vinegar or paint thinner. These aromas are from chemical reactions from the wine being exposed to heat and oxygen which causes bacteria to grow that produce acetic acid and acetaldehyde.
What it will taste like
A wine that’s “gone bad” won’t hurt you if you taste it, but it’s probably not a good idea to drink it. A wine that has gone bad from being left open will have a sharp sour flavor similar to vinegar that will often burn your nasal passages in a similar way to horseradish. It will also commonly have caramelized applesauce-like flavors (aka “Sherried” flavors) from the oxidation.
Practice smelling bad wine
If you ever let a wine go too far and you know with certainty it’s bad, give it a whiff before you dump it out. Make note of the sour flavors and the oddly nutty aromas that you find and you’ll be able to pick them out with more accuracy each time. It won’t hurt you, so why not?