PLUMP AND JUICY, these Merlot grapes are almost ready for harvest.
Photo courtesy of Wine.co.za
PLUMP AND JUICY, these Merlot grapes are almost ready for harvest. Photo courtesy of Wine.co.za

Next time you take a sip of your favourite Chenin or Chardonnay, take a moment to taste its unique character, style and flavour.

Apart from the same batches of wine in a particular vintage, no wine – including different harvests of the same label – is the same thanks to its distinctive terroir; a powerful recipe of geography, weather and Mother Nature.

To prepare you for your trip to Winederland, here is an explanation of the role that nature plays in the success of a wine and why it’s more often the result of a miracle, than a science.

Watch sommelier Xolani Mancotywa explain how wine is made.

The basic process of winemaking:

Viticulturists know exactly what type of clone of grape will grow successfully in a particular soil type. They decide which slope of the hill is best and the ideal direction the vines should face, utilizing sunlight, sea breezes or wind shelter.

Throughout the vine’s life cycle they monitor pest control, irrigation (if any) and also pruning.

Once the grapes are harvested the viniculturist takes over. The grapes are pressed to extract the juice and yeast is added to begin the fermentation process. This is officially when grape juice becomes wine. It is then transferred to oak arrels, stainless steel tanks or all kinds of amphorae, where it’s left to further ferment.

In conventional vinicultural methods, sulphur dioxide is added once the wine is bottled, to help prolong its shelf life.

At which point does the magic happen?

In the vineyards. Wine grown in the same soil, using the same techniques, can taste completely different year on year. Mother Nature plays a significant role here, so the temperature, rainfall, hail and other weather conditions both before, during and after each growing season affect the end-product quite dramatically.

Grapes are generally harvested at certain sugar levels, also referred to as balling or brix. The higher the balling upon harvesting, the higher the alcohol levels tend to be, but harvesting a wine too early can lead to unwanted green and unripe flavours.

The taste illusion:

One of wine’s best tricks is the illusion that you’re tasting elements not actually found in the wine. Grass and green peppers or coffee and cassis were not mixed with the soil or wine at all. These are the result of terroir meets varietal. Just the right amount of minerals in the soil, heat, wind, sun and rain can enhance the properties of wine.

Inside the barrel, more flavour is infused into the wine and is influenced by the choice in cooper, the drying process of the wood, and how toasted the inside of the barrel was. Other elements such as harvest date, maceration time (a.k.a. ‘Skin contact’), fermentation temperature, oak vs. steel tanks, and corks vs. screwcaps also contribute to a wine’s unique flavour.

Mother Nature’s role in winemaking.

Wine is a manifestation of love from both nature and science. Our ecosystem is extremely sensitive and prone to environmental changes.

All of this affects the quality of wine. It’s also why different methods of growing vines are being used around the world to create less of an impact on the environment and encourage a more natural approach to viticulture.

Enter here to win tickets for you and your partner to join us at The TOPS at Spar Wine Show!

Alcohol Not for Sale to Persons Under the Age of 18

The Wine Show is Thursday the 8th June to Saturday 10th June at Suncoast Casino this coming week.

Thursday and Friday are between 5pm and 9pm, while the closing show on Saturday opens at 3pm and closes at 9pm .

To book tickets go to Ticketpro.co.za