This Spring, Skip the Chardonnay and Try Chenin Blanc Instead

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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.



Harvest Report 2017

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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?

15303 tons

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..


Gravel and Grape 2017

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Gravel & Grape wines you over!

There’s a change coming to local mountain biking, and smaller stage race events like the Gravel & Grape MTB are aiming to be at the forefront of the new direction.

There While the time of year (May), clover-leaf format and close proximity to major centres like Cape Town, Durbanville and Stellenbosch make this three-day event an enticing race option, what really sets Gravel & Grape apart is the route, and the route-building philosophy of the organisers.

Set in the stunning Breedekloof Valley, the Gravel & Grape aims to maximise the rugged terrain of the area and provide riders with an experience that harks back to a less manicured time. If you like riding, that is, actually picking the smoothest lines, tackling rock gardens, negotiating scrappy descents and winding through swooping single track, then the Gravel & Grape is the perfect ride. It’s a test of technical ability, but also with a warm welcome from the region’s people.

In a way, the ride pairs perfectly with the region’s pioneering and acclaimed Chenin Blanc initiative. Four years ago Attie Louw from Opstal Winery and a few other winemakers came up with the plan to craft small, boutique productions of chenin blanc in limited volumes. The result is the Breedekloof Makers, a band of like-minded winemakers committed to emphasising the quality of wines being made in the region. The resulting chenin wines are nothing short of phenomenal.

With Slanghoek Cellar cellar master Pieter Carstens as one of the chenin pioneers and Gravel & Grape organiser, that enterprising attitude has been carried over, unsurprisingly, into the mountain bike race. “We want people to experience the valley and region as it is for us; beautiful, challenging, unique and exciting.”

By involving a number of wine farms into the race, each day offers something different, from the highest peaks to the lowest valley floors. As it is for the chenin grapes, so it will be for the Gravel & Grape riders – on the lower regions of valley the soil is sandy with gigantic river pebbles, while higher up you find broken rock and sandstone. To get you through it all will be expertly carved trail. “Make no mistake, this is an event that will test you, but will also provide warm hospitality and the opportunity to indulge in our award-winning wines after each day’s riding,” says Carstens.

The overriding philosophy of the ride is to take mountain biking back to its roots, away from hyper-slick trails and flamboyant frills that distract from the real reason for riding – the technical challenge and happy outcome after successfully negotiating tricky trail. On a recent route recce, lucky riders experienced in a short 20km section: sandy trail, rock gardens, berms, cross-country climbing, bridges, forest riding, gentle climbs, steep climbs and breathtaking scenery.

For a region that boasts the country’s youngest wine route, there’s no better way to explore it than by bike. After riding you can also enjoy the hot springs of Goudini Spa or any of 27 wineries from the Rawsonville, Slanghoek, Goudini and Breede River areas.

This is one event that will certainly wine you over

Gravel and Grape EXTREME Race Info 2017

Breedekloof Wine Valley brings to you the 3rd annual Grave and Grape MTB Challenge.

DATE: 5th to 7th May 2017
VENUE: ATKV Goudini Spa
Entry fee: R5 000 per team of 2 riders*NO SOLO ENTRIES

Click here

Gravel and Grape ADVENTURE Race Info 2017

Gravel & Grape proudly announced the inclusion of a 2-Day race last year, which will this year include a solo category.

DATE: 6th to 7th May 2017
VENUE: ATKV Goudini Spa
Entry fees:
Junior Category: R2 000 per team of 2 riders
Open Category: R2 800 per team of 2 riders
Junior Solo Category: R1 100 per rider
Open Solo Category: R1 600 per rider 

Click here

More Info & Entry Links

More information on our Gravel and Grape website: Click here
Online entries for Gravel and Grape Extreme: Click here
Online entries for Gravel and Grape Adventure: Click here

Happy Riding! The Gravel and Grape Team

The Gravel & Grape team


Gravel and Grape
Tel: 023 349 1791



Via Breedekloof Wine en Tourism

Soetes and Soup 2017 – Save the Date!

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Come Visit us at Merwida the 21st and 22nd of July for our annual Soetes and Soup Festival!

Halfway Harvest update!

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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!


Another week of Harvest 2017 has come to an end!

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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

The Start of the 2017 Harvest Season!

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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 – One the most versatile wine grapes in the world!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Bad Riesling and the smell of unleaded petrol?

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Bad Riesling and unleaded petrol

Dave March CWM
11 Jan 2017

Aged Riesling has long been associated with the smell of petrol. Some might call it kerosene or diesel, whatever, it sounds scary to new wine drinkers and heaven to many devotees.

For decades this has been explained as a natural occurrence during the aging process, and for many a desirable sign that the wine is mature and nicely displaying varietal characteristics. Suggestions are that it is a breaking down of certain molecules over time or that it is molecules which were masked during a wines youth by stronger molecules which have diminished. Or not….

Science has revealed it to be caused by TDN, a compound consisting of some 27 letters and many numbers i.e. not to be troubled with here, but there is no doubt it gives Riesling its 95 octane aromas. Exposed fruit develops more TDN.

What is debated, quite strenuously, is whether TDN is desirable or, in fact, a fault.

“It’s a fault, of course it’s a fault”, says Peter Barry, owner, proprietor and winemaker at Jim Barry in the Clare Valley, South Australia.

Peter is in no doubt that it is caused by sunburnt grapes.Peter is not one to argue with, when he says something, you listen and like his “best mate” Ken (Forrester) he has more wine knowledge than you can shake a stick at. Peter muttered that Ken’s ‘FMC’ is “a ******* good wine”. Peter’s language is as uncompromising as he is.

He doesn’t support the theory proposed five years ago by Michel Chapoutier that the petrol note was due to poor winemaking, Peter says it occurs in the vineyard.

“Riesling is ten times more susceptible to sunburn than other varieties”, so that is why we pick it up mostly in that variety. “We can detect it around 600ppm”, says Peter, “but even if it is around 200ppm people believe they can detect it, they are looking for it”. Good aged Riesling should offer honey, musk, burnt marmalade. Mitchell Wines in Clare agree, good old Riesling should be “toast and bitumen”, they say. No petrol.

A similar story in the Eden Valley, where iconic label Henschke’s owners Pru and Stephen have banned their staff from using the ‘d’, ‘k’ or ‘p’ words. “We look for buttered toast in older Riesling”, says brand ambassador

Barossa winemaker, ex-Cape winemaker, half of the Radford-Dale South African wine brand, and surfing buddy to many current SA winemakers, Ben Radford, at Rockford, agrees that petrol notes are a fault.

But why, I ask Peter, if it is caused by sunburn, does German Riesling often smell so, when summers may not be that hot?

“Because in order to expose the bunches to maximize the sun, leaves are stripped back, developing berries are exposed and the fruit has no time to develop any resistance – its own sunblock – so even in cool climates they are vulnerable”.

“I hate it, absolutely hate it”, (with some generous Aussie language), says Peter, “and us Clare winemakers have agreed to have none of it”. His 2008 Florita Riesling displays layered sherbet, burnt quince, orange peel, the classic smack of lime; again, no petrol.

“I take the tip off of canes, forcing the vines to produce lateral shoots to shade bunches”, this gives them double protection, a chance to develop their own sunblock and extra shade. There is still plenty of ripening, “we know the balance”. Fruit is only exposed if it needs to be and when it is able to cope with the stress.

Peter is a winemaking enigma, he believes “we’ve got nothing broke, so nothing to fix, but we chase progress and technology”. He has a winery section just for experimentation and has top staff; even his cellar door manager is a qualified winemaker. “They are free to make any suggestions to improve my methods, but it must improve, this is not a school debating society, don’t just disagree with my thirty years of experience, add something or **** off”.

Riesling has a three day window of ripeness, says Peter, outside of those three days you lose any chance of optimum fruit. Picking at the right hour, not just the right day, is vital. “That’s why I machine pick and have three harvesters of my own, I can say ‘go’ when I know the moment is right, hand picking, or worse, sharing a harvester, doesn’t allow you that precision”. He still selects rows and parcels and vineyards in their picking order and calls their very moment.

Ben Radford believes in harvesting by hand, but agrees with the small window of opportunity with Riesling and says that the modern machine harvesters are so much kinder to the berries and vines, and have effective sorters on board too.

It is official then, petrol notes are a fault on Riesling, unless you want to argue with Peter.



How to tell if Wine has gone bad

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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?


via Winefolly