Archive for September, 2009
Champagne really is bursting with flavour. New research reveals the 10 million or so bubbles that pop from a glass of the sparkling wine carry loads of aromatic molecules that ultimately spray into the air right under your nose.
Bubbles and champagne are nothing new, as anyone who has uncorked a bottle, hoping for the ceremonious pop and subsequent flow of fizz, knows. But from a chemical perspective, that fizz, which is made up of loads of bubbles of carbon dioxide, has been relatively enigmatic. Only recently have scientists been equipped with sophisticated enough instruments to test the bubble process and the hidden chemicals.
High-speed chemical analyses showed each bubble contained tens of aromatic compounds (precursors to aromas), and these compounds were more concentrated in bubbles compared with the rest of the champagne.
Here’s how they think the sweet-smelling compounds burst from champagne: Aromatic compounds tend to be double-ended, with one side attracted to water and the other shunning it. So bubbles make for the perfect ferries, as the molecules can keep one end inside the bubble (sealed off from the liquid) and the other end touching the champagne.
Each bubble drags several scent-carrying molecules to the champagne’s surface. And when these bubbles pop, they spray tiny jets of about five droplets into the air as aerosols. That’s the primary way that champagne’s burst of flavour tickles our noses.
In fact, much of the flavour in a food (or drink) comes from its odor. For instance, while the tongue can send basic information to the brain, such as whether a snack is salty, sweet, bitter, or sour, it’s the nose that provides the more nuanced information on flavours, such as identifying something as chocolate or coffee, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.
The researchers say you don’t need a doctorate to see for yourself the jets spraying from a glass of bubbly.
This shows why the nose of one of South Africa best sparkling wines , the Kumkani Infiniti Brut, has been described as “a toasty yeasty type with a hint of nuts”.
Méthode Cap Classique, the South African equivalent of the traditional French Champagne production, continues to enjoy massive sales success.
“Asbubbly producers we don’t need to participate in the economic recession,” quipped Cap Classique Producers Association chairman Jeff Grier at a recent wine event.
But there’s more than a hint of truth in the humour: bubbly sales continue to increase year-on-year and local Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) producers are having to move smartly to keep up with the continually increasing demand. One of the problems with this is the time required to ensure that quality is maintained and that the process is not short-circuited.
The 55-member Cap Classique Producers Association has set uncompromising standards – and 12 months minimum lees contact is just one of them, along with maturation on the cork. The mere fact that there are 55 winemakers specialising in bubbly off an almost zero base 30 years ago is a remarkable achievement.
There’s a level of sophistication obvious in Méthode Cap Classique. Over the past 20 years local bubbly makers have incrementally ratcheted up their quality – initially in the production of base wines, use of yeast strains, time on lees, use of dosage and finally time on the cork. Not only that but there is a spread of styles emerging – brut, extra-brut or zero dosage, vintage, non-vintage, special cuvees, rosé and even some interesting demi-sec wines.
Concomitant with the huge advances in quality has been the recognition that the lengthy, labour intensive process deserves more reward. In the 1980′s, Cap Classique was available for less than R10/bottle. Nowadays, some of the top MCCs command prices well over R100 and R200 a bottle – taking them into the same price range of ‘bargain’ Champagne.
The Kumkani Infinti MCC 2004 has a good, frothy mousse, a fine, lazy bead and the nose is toasty with a hint of nuts. It has a creamy entrance with a rich, complex palate of nuts, warm toast and medium, spicy, fruity candy flavours with a complex, full persistent finish. It sells for roughly R70 at most leading liquor stores.
Wine and food pairing are supposed to be a balancing act. The tasting aspects of the food and the wine must complement one another and the balance between the tastes is a crucial part for great pairing.
We almost never have a dinner where the wine is the star of the show. In fact, we usually sit down to dinner to enjoy a nice meal with a glass of wine. And many of us have a few favourite wines that we drink with everything we eat.
Most of us have a few favourite foods and if we put wine on the table, it’s one of our favourite wines. If we took the same approach to sorts of food, we would be eating apricot jelly with black olives or peanut butter with ketchup. Most of us don’t eat or appreciate these exotic mixtures of clashing flavours.
Some wine writers indicate that we should balance our wine and the dish with which we serve it.
Balance means that two conditions are satisfied. First, the food taste will be intense and flavourful, whether it is served with the wine or not, and second, the wine, when served with the dish, will taste true to its intended flavour.
To achieve this there are three basic principles involved. First, understand that wines will react in the same way to a dominant taste, but in varying degrees. Second, sweet and/or umami (sodium glutamate) tastes and spiciness from hot ingredients in food make wine taste stronger. And third, sour or salty tastes in food will make wine taste milder.
You should bring the food-wine combination back into balance. If the wine tastes bitter (dry, less fruity, acidic, or tannic), season the food with salty and sour ingredients to make the wine taste milder and bring the wine and food into balance.
If your wine tastes too mild (exaggerated sweetness or fruitiness, less tannic and less bitter), then you should season the food with sweet and umami tastes to make the wine taste stronger and bring the wine and food back into balance.
Notice that this food-balancing technique is a radical departure from traditional food and wine philosophies. It demystifies and “demythologizes” the hitherto complex task of pairing wine with food. The food tastes delicious and any wine served with it remains true to its intended taste.
One of my favourite food and wine pairings is a Beef Fillet and creamy pepper sauce with a medium too full bodied Shiraz. The Kumkani Shiraz 2005 is one of these great wines that complement the fillet dish. This wine is complex and intense in earthy and spicy aromas. The berry, spice and vanilla flavours are a perfect match for the tender, juicy and creamy fillet dish.
Read more: centredaily.com
The language of wine can be so confusing. In some instances very unappetising connotations are made to the smell or even the taste of wine. Cat pee, smelly feet and wet dog has been used as wine smell connotations.
Another perfect example is the word “easy” which is defined as “not difficult, simple.” It sounds like something simple would be a good thing. For example, when you go into a store and you want to purchase something that has to be assembled you are happy when you are told it is “easy” to put together.
With wine, on the other hand, saying wine is “easy to drink” is not a compliment and, in fact, it is often viewed as an insult as if the wine was not sophisticated and horror of all horrors – cheap! The word “easy” has had such a negative connotation that it is rarely used in sales literature or in descriptions by sommeliers.
Sometimes Americans, in particular, consider drinking wine as a challenge – the more difficult it is to drink (big and brawny) the better. Consider that at one time Merlot was the wine of choice because it was easy to drink. When easy became uncool, Cabernet gained in popularity because the wine did not go down as easily. To combat the negativity, Merlot producers no longer touted the ease of drinking their wine, but their popularity has not improved substantially.
For many wine drinkers there seems to be a natural progression starting with drinking white wines like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc because they are easier to drink. Then with more experience, many people gravitate to bolder red wines because they assume that a wine that is not easy to drink is of higher quality and sophistication.
As with any trend, we have taken it to an extreme. In fact, the best and most expensive wines when they have aged and mellowed to the point where their character has become balanced and all the elements of the wine are in harmony, even though complex, the wine becomes easy to drink in a way that is elegant.
Think of it another way, would you prefer a delicious beef tenderloin that can be cut like butter or would you choose meat that is as hard as leather? Do you enjoy reading a book that captures your attention immediately or do you choose to read a book where you keep reading the same page over and over?
When you drink your next couple of bottles of wine, think about which ones you enjoyed most with your meal and you may find that the “easy” one was the winner.
Kumkani Brand News
Did you know? The Kumkani Lanner Hill Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2007 was crowned the best Sauvignon Blanc in South Africa at last year’s SA Terroir Awards, while the Kumkani Cradle Hill Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 won gold at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles last year.
A roast rack of Karoo lamb is just the right dish to prepare on Heritage Day. This dish maybe time consuming to prepare but the result is an amazingly delicious dish which is well worth the effort.
To keep within the heritage theme, serve this meal with a uniquely South African Pinotage. The Kumkani Pinotage 2006. This well balanced wine has a ripe berry fruit nose and French oak aromas adding vanilla and spice with a excellent finish.
Serves 4 – 6
- 2 racks of lamb, 600 – 800 g each, trimmed
- 1 small clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh rosemary leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh rosemary, thyme, or lavender sprigs
- Prepare the racks of lamb at least 1 hour (or up to 4 hours) before cooking: Chop together the garlic, salt, rosemary, and pepper to make a coarse rub. Rub the racks with the mixture, cover, and set aside. (If you are not going to cook them within 2 hours, refrigerate, then bring to room temperature an hour before cooking.)
- Preheat oven to 220° C. Heat a roasting pan in the oven for 10 minutes. Pat the racks of lamb dry with paper towels and coat lightly with the olive oil. Place the racks flesh-side down in the pan. Roast 15 to 20 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 65° C for medium rare
- Transfer the racks to a carving board. Let rest for 10 minutes. Slice between the ribs to separate the chops for serving. Garnish with the fresh herb sprigs
Overall wine consumption in the US rose 0.9 percent in 2008 to 294.7 million 9-litre cases, according to the Beverage Information Group’s recently released 2009 Wine Handbook.
Although the growth rate has slowed slightly, this marks the fifteenth consecutive year of case gains. Due to the current recessionary environment, consumers have become more frugal with their purchases, trading down toward value-priced wines in both the on-and off-premise.
Changing demographic trends cited in the 2009 Wine Handbook are favourable for the wine industry. The 70 million people that make up the “Millennial” generation (age 21 to 30) are changing perceptions of wine. This generation is not as sophisticated about wine as preceding generations and is willing to experiment with wines at lower price points.
Another factor accounting for the rise in US wine consumption is the weakened dollar which has driven up prices of imported wine selections.
This has triggered an increase in sales among domestic vintages that are priced more competitively.
Imported wines dropped 1.8 %, while domestics rose 1.9% — a stark contrast to the recent trend when imported table wines fueled not only the growth of that sector, but of the entire industry.
*Kumkani Brand News:
Did you know that Kumkani is derived from the Xhosa word meaning ‘king’.
Xhosa is one of the 11 official languages of South Africa
The prestigious Nederburg auction of fine wines at the weekend attracted international as well as local buyers, but the total raised was slightly below the R4.79 million that was raised last year.
However, the organisers said that, in view of the present economic conditions and the highly competitive trading environment in the wine market, the overall result exceeded expectations, despite being about 16 percent less than last year’s sales total.
Three supermarket groups dominated the bidding, buying 38 percent of the wines on offer.
The Spar group spent R573 770 on a selection expected to appeal to its customers, closely followed by Makro with R544 880 and Checkers with R410 850.
Five international buyers were responsible for 25 percent of total sales. They included CA Sales & Distribution from Botswana, the Tesco Wine Club from the UK, Amka Vinimport from Denmark, Woermann Brock from Namibia and Juric Imports from Zambia.
Three hotel buyers spent a total of R270 000.
They were Sun International, the new Taj Hotel due to open in Cape Town in November and Singita Game Reserve.
Comparing average prices to last year, the nine-litre case price this year was R1 099, compared with R1 270 last year.
With the average price for red wine at R1 136 a nine-litre case, a single case of six 375ml bottles of Chateau Libertas 1959 fetched the highest price of R23 000 (R3 833 a half bottle), the highest in the history of the auction. Other reds that fetched top prices included Chateau Libertas 1962, Zonnebloem Cabernet 1965 and 1967, Rustenberg John X Merriman 2001 and Kanonkop 1994.
The average price paid for a dry white wine was R842 a nine-litre case, with the top price paid for two wines – Jordan Nine Yards Chardonnay 2006 and Vergelegen White 2005 – at R250 a bottle. Other top prices went to Uva Mira Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2007, Mulderbosch Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2005 and Cape Point Vineyards Semillon 2001.
The highest price for the rare Monis Collector’s Port Stamp Collection 1948 was R11 000. The second highest price for port was R5 500 for the rare Nederburg Reserve Port 1964 and the KWV 1949 Port fetched R3 600.
The average price of port a nine-litre case was R1 890.
The average price for noble late harvest wine was R1 694 a nine-litre case.
It is official. Soweto loves South African wine. On the 4th and 5th September, 5,520 people flocked to the 2009 Standard Bank Soweto Wine Festival to taste over 800 wines. This is an increase of nearly 1,000 people in comparison to 2008.
If wine once had a bad reputation in the townships, this is now well and truly buried as a new generation of wine appreciators comes to the fore in their thousands. They are the South African black middle class market and they live in Soweto, the northern, eastern and southern suburbs of Johannesburg. They are the future wine consumers of South Africa.
Fun, innovative Versus – which has recently introduced a new Naturally Sweet Range of wines – and king of South African wines, Kumkani, were also present at the festival, and enjoyed an overwhelming response from consumers.
Mnikelo Mangciphu, joint founding member of the Soweto Wine Festival and owner of Morara Wine Emporium in Soweto says “Every year, it gets better and better. The organisers raised the bar for wineries and sponsors allowing for greater interactivity between the crowds. The atmosphere was vibrant as new and connoisseur wine drinkers delved in to savour their favourite tipple from the hundreds of wines available. If there is one complaint, it was that we ran out of space. A bigger venue for 2010 must be a serious consideration.”
The popularity of the Soweto Wine Festival is growing at such a pace that moving to a new venue and/or increasing the number of days over which the festival is run, is a major consideration for 2010. On Friday evening, organisers had to close the gates an hour earlier than anticipated and on the Saturday, they had to close the gate after only being open for three hours.
“We proudly noticed an emerging trend at the festival,” continues Mnikelo. “The visitors were slightly older this year and at the end of the evenings, there were some happy people but barely anyone was drunk. This shows us that the educational element is working. We don’t want to encourage people to come for free drink. We want to encourage people who are interested in wine and learning about wine. Our overall strategy is educating about wine and we are succeeding. It really was the most fantastic event.”
Marilyn Cooper, Cape Wine Master, joint founding member of the Soweto Wine Festival and MD of the Cape Wine Academy, who are the organisers of the festival, says “A special thank you to everyone involved, especially our primary sponsors, Standard Bank and media sponsors, City Press, DStv and Kaya FM plus our wineries without whom this festival could not happen. This was a phenomenal year and attendance exceeded our expectations. Unfortunately, we had to turn away guests on both Friday and Saturday evenings so we will either be extending the festival to three days or look for a much larger venue. Our many wine estates handled the tasting tasks magnificently with at times the queues being three to four deep.
A special thank you to Kaya FM’s T-Bose and Phat Joe. They were a major hit and handled the announcements and prize giveaways throughout the evenings with immense professionalism.”
This year there was an overwhelming response by the media locally and internationally. Nearly every major South African newspaper and TV channel was represented at the festival with over 160 media over both evenings. International representation came from Japan, Belgium, Spain, France, EFE and Reuters to name a few.
The French wine industry and the dynamics of some of its main wine styles have come under pressure in the past few years. Authorities and key market players are implementing new strategies to address some of the current problems. One of theses steps is new Champagne harvest rules that will be implemented in the immediate future.
Champagne’s revolutionary new rules to deciding the yield for the 2009 harvest will mean over 40% less Champagne will be produced this year.
This is an attempt to satisfy the demands of the major houses by not adding further excess to already high stocks, and preserving prices.
At the same time it guarantees an acceptable level of income for the growers.
With growers calling for a minimum 10,400 kilos per hectare yield, and the Champagne houses demanding 7,500kg/ha, a compromise has been reached.
The basic yield has been set at 8,000kg/ha (equivalent to around 230m bottles) but the growers will be allowed to pick up to 9,700kg/ha.
The average yield last year was 14,200kg/ha, which produced 405m bottles- meaning this year there will be a drop of 44% in bottles produced.
As part of the deal, Champagne houses will only have to pay for the 8,000kg/ha of grapes in the usual quarterly payments over the 12 months after the harvest.
But they will also pay the growers for the additional 1,700kg/ha in the November of the following year.
The houses are only allowed to bottle the 8,000kg/ha, while the extra 1,700kg/ha remains declassified until the October of the following year.
However, growers, which own over 90% of the vineyards in Champagne, will be allowed to bottle the full yield of 9,700kg/ha immediately after the harvest.
Ghislain de Montgolfier, president of the Union des Maisons de Champagne (UMC), said, ‘It is the first time we have separated the quantities the growers and the negociants can pick.’
Patrick Le Brun, president of the Syndicat général des vignerons (SGV), the main growers’ union said he considered it a good solution.
‘It is the least bad agreement, faced with the demand from some of the houses that the maximum yield should be restricted to just 7,500kg/ha.’
It remains to be seen whether the price paid for grapes will fall from the high level of 2008, when the average across the appellation reached €5.35 per kilo, up from €5.05/kg in 2007.
Funky wine brand Versus and the iconic, uniquely South African brand, Kumkani, will be exhibiting at the Standard Bank Soweto Wine Festival this weekend.
Join us at the Versus and Kumkani stand in the Main Hall, Soweto Campus of UJ to taste some of our award-winning wines.
The Kumkani range maintains its proud winemaking tradition. Derived from the Xhosa word meaning ‘king’, Kumkani is an award-winning wine that celebrates South Africa’s rich heritage, eclectic mix of people and abundance of natural resources.
The Kumkani range comprises single varietals, dual varietals, the Reflections range and award-winning single vineyard wines.
Versus wine brand will wow the younger audience with its uncomplicated, easy-drinking wines, and consumers are also afforded the opportunity to sample the Versus new Naturally Sweet range.
This year’s Standard Bank Soweto Wine Festival promises to be bigger and even better than previous festivals.
The annual Standard Bank Soweto Wine Festival kicks off this Friday, 4 September 2009 at the Main Hall, Soweto Campus, University of Johannesburg, Old Potch Rd and will host 115 wineries, showcase approximately 850 wines and attract an expected 5500 Sowetan residents.
The wine festival is now considered the most popular lifestyle festival of its kind in Soweto and has one of the highest growth rates, year on year, to similar lifestyle shows in South Africa. With over 300% growth in visitor attendance since 2005, this festival is setting trends that are representative of Soweto as a burgeoning suburb of Johannesburg.
It provides residents of Soweto with opportunities to learn about wines and wine tasting within their environment. Simultaneously, this festival provides economic value to South African wine producers by introducing South African wines to new markets via education and interaction, which in turn increases local consumption and sales.
The 2009 Soweto Festival opens this Friday, 4 September, and runs until the evening of Saturday, 5 September.
Please join us as we will exhibit Versus and Kumkani wines at this amazing wine show.
Although South African wines have a successful record in the Netherlands, Wines of SA (Wosa) says it will embark on a new marketing strategy to improve sales of upmarket branded wines.
Wosa CEO Su Birch said that the Netherlands was an important market in volume terms, but most wines sold there were cheap and while it is trading well in Holland’s €5 to €8, it has not fully realised its potential in the mid-priced band where there is still many opportunities on which local producers can capitalize.
The plan was to focus on the potential for packaged wines in the €3-€4 and higher price segment. This initiative came after extensive research for Wosa by international agribusiness specialist Arend Heijbroek of Rabobank and wines consultant Cees van Casteren.
“The research was to see if we could sell better-priced wines in the market, and we found that there was potential,” said Birch.
The goal was to strengthen SA’s well-entrenched position in the Dutch market. South African wines accounted for 18,7% of retail sales volumes in Holland last year, when 29-million litres of wine were exported to that country.
The Department of Trade and Industry says SA’s wine exports rose from R4,7bn in 2007 to R6,2bn last year. Birch said: “We not looking so much to grow the market share but the value share.”
“We want to shift from building volume to building value in this critically important market, which is one of the top four destinations for SA wines.”
Birch said Wosa was looking to work closely with SA Tourism, especially with the hype around the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
“There is currently a good image of SA, so let’s build on that,” she said. It would take a concerted effort to build distribution partnerships for on- and off-consumption channels.
“We have to establish a positioning of uniqueness that defines us and separates us from our competitors,” she said.
And while the economy continued on a negative turf, Birch said SA had done better than other countries. “Our wine sales for the first seven months of this year for packaged wine were up 15%, which was really exciting.”
The Dutch campaign would be led by South African marketing specialist Annette Badenhorst, who represented South African wines in New York for five years.
Platter’s South African Wine Guide, has announced a record 41 five-star wines, defined as being ‘superlative, a Cape Classic’.
This follows a blind tasting by the assembled Platter’s tasting team of potential five-star wines for the 2010 edition, nominated by individual members during their sampling of South Africa’s wines over the past two months.
For the 2010 book, nearly 6 000 individual wines are featured.
In the course of this year’s evaluations, a record 105 candidate five-stars were identified, across a variety of categories, including reds and whites, dessert wines and port styles. Only bottled wines, available during the currency of the guide, were considered.
The book launch of the 2010 Guide will be in November. The guide’s Winery of the Year award will also be announced in November, along with the name of the ‘Superquaffer’ of the Year – the wine judged to be the most drinkable and well-priced of all the entry-level bottlings tasted for the current edition.
Analysing the results of the 2010 five-star wines, publisher Andrew McDowall said: ‘The best-performing categories this year were that of Sauvignon Blanc and Bordeaux-style Red Blends, with five wines in each. Four categories offered up four five-star wines each – Bordeaux-Style White Blends, White Blends, Shiraz and Unfortified Dessert Wines – while the Port-Style category has three five-stars. Of the white categories, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay yielded one and three five-stars respectively, while Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Blends offered two apiece, and Grenache and Pinotage one each.’
Two wines were voted Wine of the Year by the judges: Palladius 2008 from Sadie Family Wines, White Wine of the Year, and the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 from Le Riche Wines, the year’s top red.
A selection of the five-star wines will be shown to the European wine trade and consumers at the South African Mega Tasting in London during October.
The 2010 edition will be available from end November 2009 from selected book shops and retail outlets, as well as the website, www.platteronline.com. The recommended retail price is R149.95.
The South African wine industry could face wine shortages within five years if sales continue to rise at the current rate, a leading South African producer has warned.
In 2008, total exports increased 12% to a record 405m litres but vineyard planting has not kept pace with increasing demand.
Merwe Botha, financial director at Distell said, ‘We need to look at the demand and supply situation. There are signs that in the next five years the industry could face shortages in supply.
Producers have been under severe pressure because of margin and cashflow problems so they have not planted as much as they should have,’ he added.
Jo Mason, UK market manager for Wines of South Africa, agreed shortages might occur.
‘There isn’t a surplus of wine but we are still seeing exports increasing. If demand continues at the rate it is, there could be shortages in some areas,’ she said.
The total vineyard area have been fairly static since 2005, currently standing at 101,000ha.
Mason added, ‘Vineyard area has been very gradually increasing but there aren’t limitless expansion possibilities. There’s only another 40,000ha that could be planted.’