I find it interesting that our modern wines are, generally speaking, far higher in alcohol than the wines of 50 years ago.
I was privileged to taste a line-up of wines dating back more than 30 years and many of those older ones had lasted amazingly well, in spite of having an alcohol content of 10% or, in some cases, only 9%.
Today we consider a 14% alcohol content nothing unusual, and many of our table wines go as high as 15%.
This is partly because winemakers now allow their grapes to reach their full potential ripeness before harvesting them. And the riper the berries are the more sugar they contain, and that translates into a higher alcohol content. (Not to mention a fuller, richer flavour.)
At the same time some of our muscadel and jerepigo producers are lowering the alcohol levels in their delicious sweet wines.
Badsberg’s 2011 Red Muscadel, for example, has an alcohol level of 15.5%.
They can do this because the sugar in those grape is not allowed to ferment dry. The alcohol is added to sweet juice to create the wines. All they need do is add a little less.
This is very good news for those of us who appreciate these wonderful sweet treasures.
I no longer feel obliged to pour a teensy little glass of Muscadel for myself when I settle down to watch 7de Laan.
I can pour a great big glass full and not feel at all guilty. “Look, it’s no more alcoholic than Klein Constantia’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, which comes in at 15% and nobody suggests pouring that into a sherry glass.”
So let’s stop pretending we don’t enjoy our glasses of bottled sunshine. They’re South Africa’s best kept wine secret. Make them your standard winter drink. You’ll be warmer and happier for the change.