Archive for October 2011

What makes red wine red?

October 31, 2011

The most obvious thing about red wine is that it is red. How it got to be red is less obvious.

The juice of most wine grapes is clear, so how does red wine get to be red? It’s the skin. Part of the red wine-making process is allowing the juice to remain in contact with the grape skins during fermentation. This prolonged contact allows not only colour, but many of the characteristics we associate with red wine to be extracted from the skin. This is responsible for the fundamental character differences between red and white wines.

One of the prominent substances coming from the skin are tannins. In order to mitigate the tannins in young red wines, winemakers blend less tannic varieties, like Merlot, with the higher tannin varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. The French have been blending wines for hundreds of years. Bordeaux is a magnificent example.



Some useful wine storing tips

October 26, 2011

If you’re as passionate about wine then you’ll probably want to know that you’re storing your valuable wine collection in the best possible cellar conditions. Conditions that will allow your wines to age slowly and develop complexity.

To give your wine its best chance of reaching peak condition you need to protect it. Throughout its life, the fruit mellows, the colour changes, tannins, acids and wood components soften, and complexity increases. These processes should be slow and gentle for the wine to peak at its best and there are a few key factors to consider:

The ideal storage temperature for wine is between 10º and 11º C, but anything between 5ºC and 18ºC is okay. Try to maintain a constant temperature: big seasonal variations should be avoided, while changes during the course of a day should not exceed a few degrees.

Wine is best kept in the dark for most of its life – bright light, particularly sunlight, can affect its complexity and maturation potential and eventually spoil it altogether.

Most bottles of wine should be laid down on their sides – horizontal, or at least at an angle sufficient to keep the corks in contact with the wine. You want to avoid dried-out corks, which are less efficient seals and more prone to letting air in or wine out.

Ideal wine storage conditions involve a humidity level of between 70 and 75% – a lot of moisture in the air can result in mildew developing on the labels and corks, whereas very little will cause the corks to dry out and shrink, allowing air into the bottles.

If wine is going to be kept for several years it should be left as undisturbed as possible – particularly in the case of red wines that develop a sediment, best left to settle at the bottom or on the side of the bottle. Wine can take the odd ‘body blow’ (during transport, for instance), but it objects to being treated like a punching bag. Kitchens and garages are not suitable – not only due to too much human activity, but also because of odours and temperature fluctuations. Stay clear of appliances in general.

When it comes to wine racks, the metal versions are most space efficient. Racks made from wood and other materials can be smart in appearance but tend to hold fewer bottles per square/cubic metre. Also useful are a thermometer, a humidity gauge and neck-tags, handy indicators as to what’s in a particular rack.


The Stellenbosch Winelands

October 18, 2011

Stellenbosch is synonymous with the oldest Wine Route in the country, which draws wine-lovers and tourists from around the world.

The Stellenbosch Wine Route now comprises of more than 110 cellars, of whom most are open to the public, and where some of the finest, award-winning wines can be sampled. Wines of the region are of a very high standard and regularly win International awards.

Although the farms have been handed down through generations, recently some foreign investment has seen the area infiltrated by some oversees buyers. As a result a healthy cross pollination has taking place.

Read more…

Cooking with wine – How to make it work

October 14, 2011

Adding wine to your favourite recipe can impart wonderful flavour, but too much or the wrong style can ruin the potentially delicious dinner. Here’s how to make it work:

Consider Components

Wine contains sugars, acids and tannins, and each of these will show up on the plate. Subtle characteristics, by contrast, normally disappear with cooking. To maintain balance, check your recipe for acidic ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar and cut back to make room for the acid in the wine. This is especially crucial when cooking with white wine. For delicate fish or vegetables, a dry non-oaked wine works best. If your recipe is packed with onions, carrots and tomatoes, there will be plenty of sugars in the pot, so cooking with a fuller-bodied, less dry red or white wine can integrate perfectly.

Red or White?

Use the type of wine you’d serve with dinner to make the dish. Even better, unless you’re pouring something rare or expensive, buy an extra bottle and cook with it. When you’re cooking with red wine, watch out for tannins. When concentrated in reduction sauces, they can become harsh. Fortunately, proteins found in meat and dairy declaw tannins like milk does tea.

The Quality Consideration:

You may be hesitant to cook with your most prized red wine but be careful not to use absolute plonk in your dishes. If you wouldn’t drink it on its own, do not cook with it! Cook with a basic bottle that you might enjoy in a casual setting.


Alto’s new concept parties hit the mark

October 10, 2011

The Cape Town leg of the Alto Red & Black Lounge Party, in partnership with City Press and Heart FM, held at the Alto Wine Estate on Thursday 29th September was an evening of style, glamour and fine cuisine as some of the country’s top Sommeliers and media industry movers and shakers arrived dressed to theme for a night of Alto’s fine wines paired with great cuisine.


Included on the guest list were some of the Western Cape’s top Sommeliers, including Pearl Oliver, from Balthazar, Dominic Bowers, resident Sommelier at the Southern Sun’s Table Bay Hotel and Greg Mutambe, Resident Sommelier at the award-winning 12 Apostles Hotel.


Says Gregory Mutambe, Cape Sommelier at the 12 Apostles Hotel: “I was so impressed with the intimate and glamorous setting created in the Alto Wine Cellar; the evening was really special. I felt really privileged to be included. Alto Estate’s wines really are a step apart; one can understand why they’re so iconic; especially the Alto Port”.

On arrival, guests were served Alto Rouge 2008 while the sun set over the vineyards and Safika played smooth Jazz. Guests were seated in the Alto Wine Cellar while Heart FM’s Irma G played a welcome set of House Classics. CEO of the Cape Wine Academy, Marilyn Cooper, welcomed dinners as the Plated Starters of Oak smoked duck breast, wilted Asian greens drizzled with hot & sour sesame dressing and garnished with bean sprouts was served with the Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.

Alto Red & Black Lounge Party- An evening to remember

October 4, 2011

An Alto Red & Black Lounge Party is an evening to remember, with only 25 couples treated to a 5 star evening to remember.

The last party was held on the farm on 29 September.

Here are a few images of this event