Posted on 28 June 2012 by davidbiggs
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.
Posted on 15 April 2011 by davidbiggs
We all seem to have different attitudes toward wines. Friends often come to me to tell me about their latest wine discoveries.
There’s one group who are apparently happy to buy anything that’s cheap. “Hey, I found this amazing bargain – only R9,90 a bottle. I bought two cases. Can’t go wrong at that price!”
And then there are the fussy ones who don’t taste anything with less than three Platter stars or a Parker score of under 93.
“I know it’s R250 a bottle, but it really is worth every cent.”
I suppose I fall somewhere between these two extremes. I love good wine, but at a certain price point I tend to back off.
I like to have a few bottles of unspectacular wine around to drink casually with an omelette or a piece of chicken, and I also like to have some special wines to share with friends I know who appreciate good stuff. They’re for dinner parties and special occasions.
Right now, with winter around the corner, I’m looking at suitable wines for glühwein.
Glühwein requires an inexpensive, but not harsh, red wine. One wouldn’t use a Delheim Grand Reserve, for instance, or a Vergelegen V. They’re made to be sipped and savoured.
I would also not use a vary rough and tannic R9,90 wine for a glühwein.
Over the years I’ve found the best wines for this charming winter drink are those in the Tassenberg area. Taverna Rouge is good too. Or even a Chateau Libertas if you want a Grand Glühwein You need a bit of fruitiness, not too much tannin or acid, but some dark berry flavours.
Tassies is always a reliable fall-back for glühwein.
Here’s my own recipe for glühwein, and I’m sure there are many others just as good:
I start with two cups of water and a cup of brown sugar in a large sauce pan, and bring them to the boil. Then I add the juice of half a lemon, drop in three sticks of cinnamon, three whole cloves and half a teaspoon of grated nutmeg.
When this is nicely blended together by a bit of stirring, I add a bottle of Tassies and remove it from the heat before it has a chance to boil (you’ll lose the alcohol if it boils, and what’s the point then? )
Strain the drink into coffee mugs and enjoy it on a chilly winter evening