Unique addition to no added sulphur wines

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

At first glance Rooibos-infused red wine seems like a Coffee-Pinotage undertaking – not to be taken too seriously. That’s until you discover that Rooibos is rich in anti-oxidants and that it can – in part – be used as a substitute for sulphur dioxide (SO2).

Not only has Stellenbosch winery Audacia released a no added SO2 Merlot aged on Rooibos and Honeybush wood, they have filed a patent to protect the process too.  Their 2013 Merlot contains only 3 mg/L SO2, 147 mg less than the legal maximum.

Audacia winemaker Michael van Niekerk describes the wine as having “intense aromas with a bouquet of sweet cherries, roses, Turkish delight and Fynbos*. The palate is elegant with a balanced tannin structure. The wine’s predominant flavours are also reminiscent of Fynbos and spices, and it exhibits a pleasant, sweet red berry finish.”

StellenboschUniversity’s Professor Wessel Du Toit has been investigating the use of these plants’ wood material as an alternative to using oak wood derivatives such as chips and staves in the winemaking process. He has also been studying whether or not the antioxidants found in these plants could be used to reduce the level of SO2 used in winemaking.

Professor Du Toit observes: “From our research thus far we have ascertained that Rooibos wood releases antioxidants into the wine which are exclusive to the species. It is also clear that the Rooibos and Honeybush wood imparts very distinctive and unique flavours to wine.”

The wine spent eight months on the indigenous wood. These plants form part of CapeFloralKingdom – the world’s smallest, but richest plant biome and a Unesco World Heritage Site. Their wood is unique in that it contains high levels of antioxidants, no caffeine and low tannin levels.

Trevor Strydom, partner in Audacia, says: “Our Merlot 2013 is the ultimate South African wine since we’re making use of indigenous wood to produce it. Down the line, this breakthrough technology may have a massive economic impact on both the local wine and Rooibos industries, something which excites us immensely. It’s also a testimony to the merit and uniqueness of this product that our wine has been selected as one of the 450 officially recognised projects of the World Design Capital Cape Town 2014 initiative under Sustainability Solutions – Rooibos Wine.”

*Fynbos is the local generic term for the plants that make up the CapeFloralKingdom.


– Jonathan Snashall