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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
22 Dec 2003

Purple pagers were alerted as long ago as 15 November (considerably earlier than elsewhere, hem hem) about leading SA wine authority Michael Fridjhon's accusation that some South African wines, especially Sauvignon Blancs from very warm regions, may contain some illegal added flavourings.

The official body WOSA went into overdrive. It turned out that it had had its own suspicions for two years and was compiling a profile of 'proper' South African Sauvignon Blanc, and an entire authentication panel in Robertson had resigned over the matter earlier this year.

Here's the latest from WOSA which suggests that it will be a foolhardy winemaker who tries that trick for the 2004 Cape vintage anyway. And since the wine world is shrinking so rapidly, it is to be hoped that this is true elsewhere.

Update on Sauvignon Blanc and the illegal use of food flavourants

The results of the two-year study to draw up profiles of Sauvignon Blanc wines have been completed. The study was commissioned by Winetech, the wine industry research body, and covers the 2002 and 2003 harvest. The profiles will be published in February.

In the meantime the Wine and Spirit Board has noted the names of any wineries whose results appear atypical. These wineries will be aggressively monitored during the 2004 harvest by the Wine and Spirit Board and the Department of Agriculture and official samples of the grapes will be taken and compared with the final wine. This will immediately expose the addition of wine flavourings and any guilty wineries will be criminally prosecuted and will not be able to have their wines certified.

The Wine and Spirit Board and the Department of Agriculture have taken the possibility of illegal addition of flavourants so seriously that they are in the process of securing substantial additional funds so that they can check the grapes and corresponding wine of every Sauvignon Blanc producer during the 2004 harvest.

The result of all of this should be that by next year the Cape Wine industry will have eradicated any possible illegal addition of flavourants in Sauvignon Blanc and this tough reaction by the authorities is something the South African industry can be proud of.