Wine has been produced by humans for several thousands of years. There is evidence of wine production taking place in Georgia as early as 6000 BC and in China; up to 7000 BC. The oldest evidence of wine production from grapes has been found in sites in China, Georgia, Iran, and also places like Sicily and Armenia.
Throughout its history wine has been considered a means to manage health; whether by being prescribed as a medication or by ingesting it as a daily preventative measure to promote health. Wine has also been used to mask the flavours of ingredients that physicians prescribed. An Egyptian document; the Ebers Medical Papyrus, dating back as far as 1550 BC; contained suggestions for curing a great number of illnesses with a horde of elixirs, most of which feature wine as their main ingredient. It was used for more than just masking flavours, it was also acknowledged to have medical benefits as well.
It was often recommended for consumption and also topically for dressing wounds by both the Greek, Hippocraties of Cos in (460 BC), and also by the Roman, Galen (130 AD).
The daily benefits of wine were postulated by Marcus Porcius Cato in his 160 BC work de Agricultura. In this he stated that “the proper amount of wine per year for a man should be about seven amphorae” he added the caveat that “for the slaves working in chains one must add more in proportion to the work they are doing. It is not too much if they drink ten amphorae of wine apiece in a year.” The idea of labourers drinking wine to maintain good health is commonly found throughout antiquity and lends credence to the role of wine as a type of ancient health drink.
Rufus of Ephesus, a Greek physician from the late first century AD, further reinforced the daily benefits of wine in detail and explained that wine clarifies the blood, opens up the veins, and clears obstruction of the liver. He further highlighted its power in rectifying the ingestion of bad foods. He claimed that medicinal benefits were greatly enhanced for the older population as he postulated that people become colder and drier with age and are thus more in need of wine’s warming and moistening effects.
Considering the contemporary belief that red wines have greater health benefits due to resveratrol, found in tannic red wines, it is notable that the ancient authors and physicians felt differently.
Amongst these were; Corippus who wrote of wines served in Constantinople around 566 AD and described the Ascalon wines as both white and light. These same Ascalon wines were the focus of medicinal elixirs and were administered to Emperor Julian by his physician Oribasius (c.320 – 400 AD). Cassius Felix’s Latin translations of Greek medical writings (447 AD) also called for the use of Ascalon wine and so did the writings of Alexander of Tralles (b. 525 AD).
In De Vinis, written in the late Middle Ages and ascribed to Arnau de Vilanova, it is stated that there are two categories of wine with which to create theriacs, “white and good.” Simply put, light white wine was thought to be the best conduit of drugs’ properties and therefore was best suited for medicinal purposes. “Good” wine was most often considered to mean “Greek” wine and in many instances this meant sweet and strong wines such as Vernage, also a white wine. However, these wines were thought to be too strong for use as medicine or medicinal conduits unless the person’s constitution necessitated their drug-like properties. They were believed to cause harm to the patient as they couldn’t properly serve as the vehicle for the substances added to them. “Good” wines were, however, thought to serve certain purposes with different variations, such as performing as a laxative with the addition of prunes. Due to their high nutrient levels, these “good” wines were thought to produce good blood, regenerate the natural virtues, and strengthen the constitution of weakened bodies.
This work, De Vinis, went so far as to advise that people avoid tannic wines, despite any value they may have.
Wines have always been believed to provide health benefits, whether they acted as topical or ingested medicines or functioned as historical health drinks, but the belief that only tannic wines provide benefits is a modern concept that has just been shaken by this most recent study. White wines were seen as powerful health tonics in the past, so, perhaps these findings concerning resveratrol will lead back to appreciating the benefits of white wines as praised by Oribasius, Cassius Felix, Alexander of Tralles and Arnau de Vilanova.
South African Wine Lover
I’m at best what can be described as a casual wine drinker. Don’t get me wrong I love wine, red or white I enjoy them equally. My knowledge of the subject is however rather limited. As such one of the questions that I keep on asking myself is does the shape and material of the glass have an effect on the aroma and taste of the wine? Join me as I try to discover the truth about wine glasses.
To start with, let’s look at the material. Some wine experts say that wine must be served in the best wine crystal you can get to get its full blessing. According to them, it is true that the aroma, appearance, and even the taste of the wine is enhanced through using the proper crystal wine glasses. The other main material that is commonly used is glass and unless you’re paying close attention, it’s extremely difficult to tell the difference between the two materials. Here's how: Hold the crystal glass up to the light, it will capture the light in a prism and creates small rainbows - while glass doesn’t. If after holding the glasses to the light you are still not satisfied, use a pocket UV light to see what colour the glasses give off. A blue to purple hue indicates crystal, while a green hue is given off by glass. Also, crystal is generally much heavier than the same piece made in glass.
As it turns out there seems to be a consensus that for most people, there isn’t a huge difference in the taste between wines served in crystal versus wines served in glass. When it comes to the material used, it is one of personal preference, crystal being more costly and prestigious while glass tends to be more convenient and durable.
Now we get to the shape of the glasses. It helps to know and understand the anatomy of a wine glass from top to bottom and what effect this can have on your experience.
The Rim: The top of the wine glass where the wine meets your mouth. The best wine glasses have a thin, smooth rim that doesn’t get in the way of the wine flowing to your lips. Lower quality wine glasses may have thicker rims with more of a texture that can distract you from the wine experience. Typically, crystal can be manufactured into a thinner rimmed glass, but this isn’t always the case.
The Bowl: This is where the wine glass takes its open shape, usually narrower at the top and roundly opening up to the bottom to allow for proper swirling. Depending on the type of wine, the size and shape of the bowl may vary to allow for more aroma to come across or for the wine to breathe properly.
The Stem: The glasses stem is generally long and thin, it makes it possible to properly hold the glass without your body heat affecting the wine’s temperature. The second reason for holding the glass by the stem is that it will keep the drinker's hands away from the rim of the glass. Our hands have their own scent. Soaps, lotions and perfumes also increase the intensity of these scents. These scents can overpower, mask or change the aromas from the wine so the design of the stem allows these scents to stay as far away from the drinker's nose as possible. Some professionals even go as far as to hold the base rather than the stem for this very reason.
The Base: Finally, the bottom and least glamorous part of the glass keeps it from falling over.
In the 1950s, glass manufacturers advanced the design of wine crystal glasses with unique shapes and sizes for nearly all wine variants and in 1974 a well-known glassware company claimed that a specific shape of the glass would aid a wine drinker in picking up every aroma of the wine and that the different shapes would also direct the wine to the correct part of your mouth that would allow you to taste that wine best.
In 2004, an article appeared in the Gourmet Magazine that reported studies at major research centres in Europe and the U.S. suggested that these claims were, scientifically inaccurate. According to Linda Bartoshuk of Yale University, “Your brain doesn’t care where taste is coming from in your mouth.”
But it doesn’t seem to be as simple as that and a lot of time and research by large glass manufactures have gone into the shape of especially the bowl of the glass. It’s got to a point that there are not only glasses available for the specific style of the wine but also there are now glasses available for specific wine regions. Ask wine professionals and they will largely tell you the shape of the glass has the ability to concentrate the wine’s aroma, intensifying the characteristics of the wine. But the argument can be made that the casual wine drinker will not readily pick up the subtle differences and nuances between the different shapes when drinking the same wine. And let’s face it, it is also used as a clever marketing tool to get you to buy more sets of glasses than you actually need.
Sommelier Dini, a wine teacher for over 20 years, shares her opinion regarding various wine glasses:
What seems to be a constant theme throughout my research is that, unless you are a wine professional or are a wine connoisseur, that for everyday use you really only need two sets of wine glasses in your home. A set of all-purpose glasses that are great for both red and white and a set of sparkling wine flutes will be more than adequate. Your wine experience won't be destroyed at all. You may not catch the most nuanced of aromas, but a single, well-made wine glass is a worthy investment by any casual wine lover. When deciding on which glass to go with, take your time, shop around for the material and shape of your choice. It is after-all a very personal item and if chosen correctly can bring you a great deal of pleasure for many years to come. Avoid coloured glasses and serve wine in a clear glass that shows off the colour and clarity to best advantage.
The ones that seem to work best are ones that have stems. Although stemless wine glasses look amazing and is a bit unusual, it is wine glasses with stems that are both great for tasting and serving wine more formally. The stems also ensure that your hand doesn’t have to touch the bowl of the glass, which would alter the temperature of the wine. It also makes it much easier to swirl the wine when you initially taste it and let’s face it, it is far more fun to clink the glass for cheers!
South African Wine Lover
Wine tasting on the couch? Yes! Build yourself your very own wine cellar and own these beautiful words.
Wine is a lifestyle – once you have established a relationship with it, you will find it is so much more than just an alcoholic beverage. By the time your knowledge of this delicious substance evolves, you establish your likes and dislikes and learn more about its complexity. Then, without even trying, you start building your very own collection. The collection grows as you grow. A local visit to your speciality wine shop has delightful finds. Who can resist buying a bottle or six? Your travels automatically include vineyard tours where you buy not only the wine but lock in wonderful experiences and stories in every bottle or twelve. Rumour gets out to your friends and family that you love wine and before you know it your collection grows even further as your Christmas stocking includes a bottle or three or the gifts on your birthday makes your precious wine collection grow even more.
As the relationship evolves, commitment follows. It is time to get real. Put a ring on it and build your wine the house it deserves – its very own wine cellar. If love is all you have to give, you can still make it work. But if you have a little bit of money to spend on this special relationship, it will surely make things a lot easier!
Let us start with the very basics. When storing wine, two crucial conditions must be taken into consideration. Store between 10-15 degree Celsius and if you like a cork as a closure for bottles, you should ensure high humidity is in the order of their day in your wine cellar.
Small budget, limited space?
One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to wine storage is that you must devote an entire room. A closet or that odd space underneath your staircase is perfect!
The wine closet.
A normal closet, a corner closet or a storage area that is difficult to access, could easily be transformed into your very own wine cellar. Remove the doors, insulate or build in a wine fridge and shelving and voila - an amazing way to add a wine cellar to your home.
The wine cellar under the stairs.
Usually an uncomfortable, unutilised space in any two-storey home – this is exactly what Jaime Cittadino, the creator behind the lifestyle blog Sunflowers and Stilettos did. She documented their wine cellar built it in this 3-minute video:
As with any custom home wine cellar, you can suit the style to your tastes and your home, whether you’re looking for a rustic, traditional look or a bit modern and minimalist feel like Jaime’s under stairs wine cellar
Enough budget, not enough space?
Heard about an underground spiral cellar that can hold up to 1900 bottles of your favourite wine? The Wine Room is the exclusive distributor of such Spiral Cellars in South Africa. It can be installed between three and nine days under any ground floor room in your house! The benefits are endless and the result jaw-dropping, check out this video from The Wine Room.
Enough budget and space?
Lucky you! Let us indulge. If you have the space for it, you can create a jaw-dropping at home wine cellar and utilise it as an extraordinary entertaining space in your home. For this project, we suggest you make use of the specialists and many South African companies do just that. Before consulting with them, here are a couple of pointers to get clarification on to assist you in the process:
There you go - ready to indulge in the wine tasting experience at home.
I once heard a sommelier say “Of all the endless combinations of words in all of history, the cellar door is the most beautiful.” I just smiled...
South African wine lover
Do you enjoy drinking wine and maybe consider yourself to be a wine enthusiast? If so, have you ever visited the Cape Winelands? Since the whirlwind called COVID-19 hit us and local travel has become the new normal, the beautiful Cape Winelands should be a priority on your local vacation to-do list. After all, many of the best wines in the world are made right here in sunny South Africa.
South African wines are good. Really good. Ask the experts!
Last year September a special tasting was held at the Westin Hotel in Cape Town. There Tim Atkin said that South Africa is the most exciting wine-making country in the world at the moment and that as South Africans, we should stop doubting ourselves and be proud and confident, as our wines are brilliant!
Who is Tim Atkin and why is what he says so valuable? To start off, he is a British Master of Wine and an award-winning wine journalist, broadcaster and commentator. A judge of several international wine competitions with a huge international following. He has won a handful of awards which include the Glenfiddich Wine Writer Award, Lanson’s Wine Writer of the Year, the UK’s Wine Columnist of the Year and he was the very first recipient of the Wines of France Award. This gentleman knows his wine.
Annually he release a report, this is regarded as not only one of the most detailed reports, but also an authoritative overview of SA wine (the full report is available on timatkin.com).
The 2020 report was released on 10 September and for the second time ever Tim Atkin awarded the highest mark possible to a New World wine.
"This year I have awarded two perfect scores of 100 points; these are only the second and third wines ever to receive this accolade (the first was Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015, in 2018),” he says. “These remarkable, world-class wines are the 2018 Porseleinberg Syrah from the Swartland and the 2019 Sadie Family Skurfberg Chenin Blanc from Olifants River.
“Not only that, but 23 other wines scored 97 points or higher. Chenin Blanc is the standout grape this time, with 32 Chenins scoring 95 points or more, but rarer grapes such as Colombard, Tinta Barocca and Palomino also featured among my 153 wines of the year. I salute all the winning winemakers and viticulturists for their fantastic efforts and can’t wait to see them in person again soon.”
Let's just take a moment. Two 100 point wines to South African winemakers? This is big!
Sadie Family Wines (scored 100 points for the 2019 Sadie Family Skurfberg Chenin Blanc ) released this video:
"We usually have public tastings at the cellar during the weekend preceding our release, but this year we had to cancel the tastings due to the general ban on the serving of alcohol in public spaces in the Covid-19 lockdown."
The beautiful farm where the 100 points 2018 Porseleinberg Syrah was grown:
"Porseleinberg is a tough hilltop farm in the Swartland that yields South Africa’s most epic Syrah. Tended with love and care by Callie Louw, a grower for Boekenhoutskloof, the land atop the Porseleinberg on the outskirts of the Swartland is known for its notoriously hardcore blue schist. Callie is a member of the Swartland Independent Producers, a group of Swartland winemakers that have been taking the region’s winemaking practices into a bold new direction ever since they officially joined forces in 2010. His approach with his Porseleinberg Syrah is to make a wine with a sense of place and time, that differs from one year to the next as an expression of the here and now."
Bravo Sadie Family Wines, bravo Porseleinberg, you make South Africa proud!
Tim Atkin MW South Africa Report: The Podium 2020
also awarded the following:
Yes, from Boekenhoutskloof to Calitzdorp - South African Winelands is your oyster and a gem to explore!
Ok, so we’ve established that our wines are good. What about the vineyards?
There is this very special panel of experts, they are made up of nearly 500 wine aficionados, sommeliers and luxury travel correspondents from across the globe who analyze 1500 wineries from 17 countries. They divide the world into geographical regions and after a fair process, they award the prize to the World’s Best Vineyards (worldsbestvineyards.com).
Three South African vineyards have been included in the top 50 list of the World’s Best Vineyard 2019 competition.
34 - Vergelegen Wine Estate in Somerset West
39 - Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch
45 - Creation Wines in Hermanus
World-class vineyards. On our doorstep.
Planning that trip already? Here's a good place to start :)
The top 3 vineyards is a good starting point to include in your trip. These three wine farms will provide beautiful tasting experiences, interesting winery tours, magnificent gardens, dining options that stretch from picnics, bistro lunches all the way through to fancy fine dining. This is only but the start! There are hundreds more not to be missed, they are all neatly packaged in 23 various wine routes to explore at your leisure. Yes, 23! To name a view: Constantia Wine Route, Durbanville Wine Route, Breedekloof Wine Valley, Franschhoek Wine Valley, Paarl Wine Route, Robertson Wine Valley, Stellenbosch Wine Routes, Tulbagh Wine Route, Wellington Wine Route, Worcester Wine & Olive Route, Klein Karoo Wine Route, Plettenberg Bay Winelands, Bot Rivier Wine Route, Elgin Valley Wine Route, Aghulas Wine Route, Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Route, Stanford Wine Route, Darling Wine Route, Santam Swartland Wine & Olive Route, West Coast Wine Route. Deep breath. So much wine, so little time!!
For a handy South African Wine Routes Map, click here to download your very own.
In August 2020 the Western Cape government (together with Wesgro) launched the “We Are Open” domestic tourism campaign to urge South Africans to take advantage and explore the beauty and diversity of the many affordable and world-class attractions that the Western Cape has to offer – including the Winelands and various vineyards.
To further assist in planning the perfect trip, assure to follow a hashtag-trend that is peaking at the moment: #visitwinelands. Here you will find extra interesting snippets of information on who’s doing what in the Winelands – from wineries giveaways to exclusive tasting offerings.
Never take the smaller, less-known wine farms for granted. You will be greatly rewarded when including them into your trip. There you can savor the ambience and enjoy smaller, more intimate tastings, sometimes even meet the winemakers and those who normally work behind the scenes of our world-class wines. As Robert Frost so beautifully states:
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference."
South African wine lover
Ernest Hemmingway said it best “Wine and friends are a great blend”. Choosing a wine to give as a gift is a great way to show you care. Care for your friends and care about the South African wine industry.
The silly season is upon us, the time to give some thought to gift shopping has arrived. Your gift list includes a family member, a beloved friend or a new boss? You’ve been invited to a birthday party, an engagement party or maybe a year-end dinner party your boss is hosting? Luckily wine is the gift solution for most occasions and suitable for any gender.
Which wine do I choose and where to buy it?
For the everyday gift, there are luckily many affordable options available when it comes to SA wines. An excellent resource to bookmark or add to your favourite list is Topwinesa.com. They are a superb resource and will lead you to top South African wines that sell under R100 per bottle! Topwinesa.com states that they are listing “every South African wine at under R100 a bottle to receive a good review from one or more of the top tasting panels on the planet in 2019 and 2020.” For easy reference, they've categorised wines under whites, pinks, reds and sweet.
If you aim to give a South African bottle of vino that impress, Georgina Hindle (Deputy editor of Decanter.com, currently residing in France) chose 10 top South African wines worth seeking out – this is her choice with some notes:
In post COVID world, physical retail shopping is not always the most practical of choices when it comes to shopping.
Luckily there are wonderful options available for the wine shoppers. How does a bottle of wine, presented in a custom laser engraved wine box sound? Now that is something special and also why Winegifts.co.za is a sure favourite to many South Africans. They give their customers an easy solution as an online one-stop-shop for wine and all things wine-related. “Wine gifting can be small but it is loaded with meaning. It can symbolize personal enjoyment, friendship, status, achievement, success or happiness to name but a few.” They specialize in creating unique, customisable gifts and have been doing it since 2010!
Another excellent online shop is Winecellar.co.za. Their shop is cleverly divided into helpful categories to make your choice a little bit easier - choose by wine style (red, white, rosé… all the way through to fortified), by region, by category (from investment wines to under R150!), their favourites, highly rated wines and even Platter 5*. They also have a fantastic feature where they list wine tastings to be hosted in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
In closing, I celebrate South African wines, winemakers and all involved in the wine industry - I also celebrate wine sales being open again. In this, why not share the "give the gift of wine" idea and appeal to everybody to #DrinkSouthAfrican and #SupportSaWine wherever they are in the world and to encourage friends and family to do the same. Cheers to drinking wine again!
South African wine lover
There’s bliss in wine, in every subtle aroma, and every drop of thirst-quenching goodness. We love wine, yes, because it’s boozy, but also because it nourishes our imagination.
Wine is also a world of discovery. With so many wine styles and grapes, so many wine-producing regions, and passionate winemakers, you can enjoy a different bottle every day and not taste through half of it.
Wine, though, is often considered a costly drink. Some bottles indeed go for thousands of dollars, but interestingly, even the most inexpensive wines can be the source of immense pleasure if you know where to look.
What’s the deal with wine prices, anyway?
Most of the time, expensive wine comes from small, prestigious plots of land. Productions are small, and the grapes are of the highest quality. The wines are not good, they’re great — but they’re also famous.
Bear with me on this one. Fame creates demand, and demand drives prices up. So, high-priced wines are excellent, but sometimes their prices aren’t justified.
Here’s a shocker, outstanding wine exists in the least expected places, and since it’s not very well known, let alone famous, it’s very well priced! You’ll find these everywhere in South America, in small-town USA, in every unexplored European town, but particularly in South Africa.
South African Wines, The Best Value for Your Money
People have been making wine in the country since 1659 when the Dutch settlers brought grapevines to the Rainbow Nation. Red, white, sweet and sparkling, South Africa’s vineyards represent every wine style on earth.
We’re talking almost 100,000 hectares of vines planted with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Also, the remarkable, and unique to the country, Pinotage.
South Africa’s best wines, all scoring over 93 points in Wine Magazines can be priced higher than R1000, we’re talking about the best of the best — that’s great value right there. Yet, you need not look far to find superb wines for under R500, sometimes even less than R150 but let that be our little secret.
Where To Find The Best Valued South African Wines
And for more consumer advice, here are some grapes, wine styles and regions to look out for if you want the biggest bang for your buck.
Make Wine Part of Your Life Today
Great wine comes at all prices; that’s the beauty of it, so get yourself a bottle of wine, call some friends over and enjoy your favorite fermented drink. Wine is for everyone, and even the most inexpensive bottles can be an immense source of pleasure if you know where to look.
Food writer and certified Sommelier
Hello! I’m Doctor Divera. Let me take a minute and tell you a little bit about myself for those of you who don’t know me yet. I’m a medical doctor by profession, a mother of two, violinist, I love to play field hockey and sliding of the mountains on my ski's and besides that, I have a passion for food and wine.
I love to cook, I enjoy thinking about new recipes, cooking for my family and friends, and planning menus for dinner parties and paring the meals with beautiful wine. My favourite wines are Viognier (white) and Brunello (red).
I love wine so much that I decided to follow an in-depth and extensive course at the Wine Academy in the Netherlands. During my wine study, I learned about sulphite in wine. Sulphite is present in all wines through the natural fermentation processes during winemaking, and through addition as a preservative, it protects the wine from oxidation, loss of freshness and fruit and without such the wine loses its colour and turns brown. Sulphite is officially an allergen substance, which can give you reactions such as an asthma attack or headaches.
In recent years I have been suffering from these sulphites in the wine myself. And because I strongly believe that wine is something to enjoy, I started looking for a solution to drink wine sulphite-free. And luckily I found it with The Wine Drops! This is a simple natural product. It converts the free sulphite in the wine into sulfate through the use of hydrogen peroxide. Fortunately, it does not influence the taste of your wine. The very next day I started implementing The Wine Drops in my life. It works! I am so happy. The Wine Drops are a simple and natural solution for reducing the sulphites in wine, it is safe to use.
Martine D. Nipshagen - MD
Creator of #thehalfrulemethod 💻course
Follow Dr Divera on Instagram @drdivera