The Okanagan: British Columbia’s Vine Valley

By: Tod Stewart

Man, did I need this,” was the thought that went through my mind as I opened the blinds and took in the morning view from my luxurious suite at Spirit Ridge Resort. Under an azure, late fall sky, vineyards stretched down to the sun-sparkled cobalt surface of southern Osoyoos Lake, whose waters stretched towards the hills in the distance. Though late in November, the Okanagan Valley in the British Columbia interior was experiencing a glorious, prolonged fall, with temperatures in the mid-50s. As I’d been in a COVID-induced semi-lockdown seemingly forever, a chance to escape my Toronto condo was just what the doctor ordered (along with face masks, vaccines, tests, social distancing, and an “abundance of caution”).

  This was my second visit to Spirit Ridge. The first time was back in 2005 on my first trip to Brit-ish Columbia. At that time, the resort had yet to be fully completed (doors officially opened in 2006), but the evidence of what was yet to come was apparent. Today, Spirit Ridge offers a range of stunning accommodations, activities, fine dining and the Indigenous-owned Nk’Mip (In-ka-meep) Cellars winery mere steps away. It also serves as the perfect base for exploring the numerous wineries that pepper the landscape, from the town of Osoyoos in the south to Salm-on Arm in the north.

  This time, what brought me to the Okanagan was an invitation to visit the stunning Phantom Creek Estates winery, tour the facility, taste some wines, and dine in its acclaimed restaurant. While there, I could also spend some of my own time checking out a few other establishments in the area.

  Nestled between the Cascade and Columbia mountain ranges and meandering on a roughly north to south tack for some 124 miles, the Okanagan Valley was forged by glacial activity about 10,000 years ago. The landscape is as rugged as it is beautiful. I’ve toured a few wine regions in my travels, and, as far as scenery goes, the Okanagan ranks up there with the best of them. Though undoubtedly appreciative of their daily view, Winemakers in the area face a few challenges – some familiar, some not so much.

  To begin with, there’s the climate. To call it extreme would be an understatement. For example, the summer of 2021 saw temperatures in south Okanagan hit upwards of 120 degrees Fahren-heit. In the midst of this was a twelve-day stretch where some vineyards experienced tempera-tures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 12 hours each day. Come January, the mer-cury plummeted to a bone-chilling -13 degrees Fahrenheit.

  The region is also very dry. The southern part of the valley – where I was stationed – is Cana-da’s only desert and the second driest climate in the country outside of the Arctic. Irrigation in the vineyards is a must. A bit of a pain, but not something to stop dedicated vineyard manag-ers. What could stop a dedicated vineyard manager is some of the local wildlife.

  If, as a winemaker, you think birds are a problem, tending vineyards in the Okanagan could prove to be somewhat unnerving. Bears, cougars, wolves, rattlesnakes and Black Widow spi-ders are all present to varying degrees and can be more than a tad annoying. With their insa-tiable appetite for ripe berries, the bears will gladly decimate row after row of vines (and are probably indifferent to the nuances of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot). This can have some unfortunate economic consequences for a vineyard owner. Still, there’s not much that can be done outside of letting them have their fill, given that they can also decimate those interfering with their dinner. Encounters with the other beasties are rare but not unheard of. As an aside, I asked a local Bordeaux-trained winemaker if he faced similar challenges from wildlife while working in France. “Well, there were French people,” he said.

  If you can deal with these challenges, the south Okanagan is, by all accounts, a truly remarka-ble place to craft world-class wines.

  Vancouver-based businessman Richter Bai, whose background involved mining in China, thought so, too. He saw the south Okanagan as the perfect place to craft the Bordeaux-inspired blends that he personally favored. And so, armed with nothing more than a dream and about $100 million (Canadian, I’ll assume), Bai secured some prime wine-growing real estate and set to work.

  Fortunately, the land he bought came with a trifecta of highly-acclaimed vineyards: Phantom Creek Vineyard, planted in 1996; Becker Vineyard, planted in 1977; and the Kobau Vineyard, planted in 2005. The Evernden Springs vineyard – planted after Bai’s purchase – in the neigh-boring Similkameen Valley added a fourth vineyard to the estate’s holdings. The region’s dry climate ensured that utilizing organic and biodynamic vineyard practices was more than doa-ble. To alleviate any possible hiccups along the way to organic and biodynamic certification, the talents of Olivier Humbrecht were enlisted. Humbrecht, owner and winemaker at Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, was brought on as Consulting Winemaker. France’s first Master of Wine, Humbrecht is known as a leading proponent of biodynamic winemaking.

  The 78,884 square foot winery Bai built has a 35,000 case capacity and is at once a showcase for art, architecture, gastronomy and, of course, wine. It sports a 500-seat amphitheater, a first-class restaurant, and numerous objets d’art, including a Dale Chihuly-designed chandelier hanging over the Founder’s Cellar tasting table.

  I was shown around the place by the very hospitable Andrew Young, Phantom Creek’s Hospi-tality Manager. He also took me through a thorough tasting of the winery’s vinous treasures. The Bordeaux blends and house cuvées (that often saw both Bordeaux and Rhone varieties in the mix) certainly displayed both power and elegance, as well as complexity, as did a very solid Syrah. The whites – including Riesling, Pinot Gris and Viognier – were immaculately balanced and varietally true to character. Even the Viognier, a grape that tends to veer off into blowsi-ness in the wrong hands, was elegant and restrained.

  An additional benefit when visiting Phantom Creek is partaking in some of the winery’s other assets, of which there are plenty.

  Over a superb, multi-course dinner at the winery’s on-site restaurant, creatively prepared by Chef Alessa Valdez, I was poured a number of additional Phantom Creek wines that married perfectly with the various dishes. Poached Lingcod with crispy grilled saffron polenta, grilled green cabbage, ‘nduja beurre blanc, and almond gremolata…O.M.G. And things were just get-ting started.

  It was a bit of a change of pace going from the opulent lavishness of Phantom Creek Estates to the elevated vineyards of Osoyoos Larose. I admired the view of the Okanagan Valley stretched out about 1,300 feet below me as I looked over the nearly 80 acres of vines. I was in the vineyard because it wasn’t possible to visit the winery, mainly because, at the time of visit-ing, Osoyoos Larose didn’t have a winery.

  Since its inception in 1998, the estate has availed itself of various “borrowed” facilities. This should be changing over the next couple of years as a permanent production home has finally been secured. Yet, despite what many might see as a definite setback, Osoyoos Larose has managed – vintage after vintage – to craft red wines based on the classic Bordeaux blend that have been hailed by connoisseurs and critics as among the best in Canada.

  Owned by France’s Groupe Taillan (owner of Chateau Gruaud-Larose in Saint-Julien, among others), Osoyoos Larose, like most Bordeaux estates, makes but two wines (both red); its Le Grand Vin flagship, and Pétales d’Osoyoos. However, the estate is in the process of planting white varietals for a Bordeaux-inspired white counterpart. About two and a half acres have been planted to date, with an additional 20 acres slated for planting next year. Until then, con-sumers will have to content themselves with the Osoyoos Larose reds. A vertical tasting of vin-tages 2009 through to 2018 went a long way in convincing me that there’s plenty with which to be content.

  It should be exciting times ahead for a winery that, without hype, without a huge advertising and promotional budget, and without even an actual winery, has managed to secure a top spot in the echelon of the world’s great wines.

  Before catching a morning flight back to Toronto, my final meal was at the whimsically named The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry restaurant at Spirit Ridge. The name derives from a story told by the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation describing the Four Food Chiefs, each representing above-ground animals, water-dwellers, underground edibles and above-ground plants. I settled on the Bring Me Hasenpfeffer, mostly because it sounded (and, in fact, was) delicious, and also because “hasenpfeffer” was a word etched into my brain since my Bugs Bunny cartoon days. It paired nicely with the ripe, densely-structured, slightly smoky Nk’Mip 2018 Syrah from the adjacent winery.

  For wine markers south of the border looking for stunning scenery, fantastic hospitality, and some pretty incredible wines, a visit to British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley will prove to be en-tertaining, educational and eye-opening.

Is Wine Culture Nature’s Saving Grace?

By: Hanifa Sekandi

If the vines could speak, they would tell stories of the scorching sun burning the skin of grapes, winter’s frigid temperatures and frost forcing them to surrender to the elements. At any given time, the vines in vineyards neatly planted around the globe have to adjust to mother nature; sur-vival depends on adaptation. There is no better teacher than nature.

  If you understand viticulture and viniculture, you know there is always something to learn – from the moment the seed is planted to the time the vines grow, and the grapes are harvested. Just like vines, we are students of nature. And, to grow, we must pay attention. As one immerses them-selves into wine culture, they quickly learn that there is more to a bottle of wine than finding a splendid pairing. We cannot simply live in blissful ignorance all that time. When we do, life shocks us back to reality. The reality is, as much as we are sovereign beings, we are also a part of a larger ecosystem. One that we love to enjoy yet, at times, fail to understand.     

  Viticulture could be that saving grace since the thing we love reveals what has always been right before us.

  It seems like viniculture and viticulture are experiencing a backward renaissance. The renais-sance was a period when change and innovation fueled both old and new industries. Out with the old and in with the new; the common consensus. Wine cultivation during this time saw great leaps. Tradition needed to be forgotten to open doors for new production methods that yielded more fruit and profits. The modern revolution, the golden age of wine, left no stone unturned. Change is good, they believed. Even disruptive change met with a “yes we can” ideology. Somewhere along the way, the relationship between nature and winemaking ruptured. Although deeply interconnected, the two, at times, became separate in modern winemaking. Recently, however, the resurgence of biodynamic wineries and organic wines is making a wave in viticul-ture. This circular leap to the past, yet still firmly planted in present-day winemaking, is a rebirth needed for nature and viticulture. Wine is a beverage that has endured many turbulent times and has reached its tipping point. It is time to turn back.

Is Organic Wine Farming New?

  Sometimes we borrow things from the past and forget to give credit where it is due. We cannot discredit organic winemakers. They have shown the wine industry that perhaps it has gone too far with innovation and reminded it that wine is dependent on nature. Soil quality, respect for the habitat, and all organisms living in it are components one must not ignore. Organic wine is not a niche sector. It is the culture. Biodynamic farmers are not reinventing the wheel; they are ex-panding on traditional wine practices.

  So what is organic grape farming? How does it nurture nature and wine culture? For starters, it is about quality above anything else. Therefore smaller batches are the norm. Crafting these wines requires patience and an understanding of the land. It includes pesticide-free vines growing on nutrient-dense soils. It gives a home to different animal species and organisms. It brings together components that foster an enriching habitat and encourage the growth of rich grapes in nutrient-dense soils. It is a life-sustaining ecosystem where the sum of its parts completes the whole.

  Most people do not think of the little intricacies that make up a bottle of Chardonnay. Nor do they question if one sip contributes to the detriment of viticulture. Even imbibing wine slowly and with ease has lost its way. Does this mean we cannot enjoy ourselves? Of course not! But we must be mindful. And in turn, we challenge ourselves to do more than exist. So when we look at the science of wine and how this can shape a better future. We must return to its roots. It is the same viewpoint that people are taking in sustainable farming. Although tedious, the old way of working the land respected culture and nature. We do not need to consume more simply because we can. We certainly do not need to cut corners for more low-quality wine because of better technology. Drinking wine was never meant to be a sport.

Does Conventional Farming Need A Shake-up?

  Conventional farming practices grow vines with the help of pesticides which we now know are not beneficial to your health. Alas, we cannot blame wine growers who deal with unpredictable terrains, weather conditions, pests, and plant diseases for looking for remedies. Who would not jump on something that could help their vines grow? Owning a vineyard is hard work and re-quires a lot of mental strength to adapt to the unpredictability encountered at any given time.

  The routinization of farming has found its way into winemaking, perhaps due to people’s desire for consistency in their favorite wine. Therefore, now is not a time to point fingers or argue about what is right or wrong. Nature speaks louder and determines what must be done. For example, when Phylloxera ravaged vines in the late 19th century, French winemakers’ solution of planting American disease-resistant vines, which led to grape hybrids, proved successful. There is flexi-bility in change. It is okay to take a few steps back without significantly altering your operations to preserve both nature and viticulture.

  Monocropping, a farming practice where high yields of one plant varietal are grown, has found its way into winemaking. This method is commonly used in corn, soybean and wheat farming. The problem, however, is that growing limited grape varietals reduces plant diversity within an ecosystem. To make matters worse, an influx of toxic pesticides and fertilizers is necessary to increase and sustain the growth of desired staples. Once met with praise, the negative impact this practice has on the environment, animals and organisms is now evident.

  For vineyards, plant biodiversity is an adjustment that can slowly be incorporated into small or large vineyards lacking in diversity. Creating a healthy and robust ecosystem within a vineyard does not require giant leaps. Nor will it impact the bottom line. Steps can be as small as adding a few new plant species close to where vines grow. As a result, the ecosystem blooms and other species thrive within this environment. Birds, microorganisms, bees and other insects, for exam-ple, contribute to a robust ecosystem. Every animal and organism in nature is perfectly placed so that the entire system functions accordingly.

  Producing more of what we desire should not kill what we essentially need. A reliance on toxic fertilizers and pesticides while favoring mass consumption and lucrative simple production prac-tices will only cause the wine industry to suffer in the long run.

For The Grace Of Wine

  The beginnings of wine were biblical and mythical. The lineage of wine has long roots starting in the Mesopotamian Era. Wine has also symbolized togetherness. There was a time when families would spend their Saturday with their feet planted in a larger barrel grape-treading. Owning a vineyard was a family and a community affair in some wine regions. Harsh weather conditions or vine disease that ravaged a season would truly break hearts. Wine represents not just liveli-hood but a dream brought into existence after the perfect harvest, demonstrating that hard work yields great things. Centuries past, wine also opened a pathway to the New World when it was traded for coffee. Wine is unifying and polarizing at the same time.

  There is more to a wine tasting than just sipping and spitting. It is an art in and of itself. Here, sommeliers worldwide can tell you stories of the vineyards where grapes grow. How a bottle of wine is best served and why it should be slow sipped or appreciated with grilled fish. Wine is meant to be enjoyed over stories with those we love. Wine is the gatekeeper of legends waiting to be told.

  The seeds that have been planted around the world have traveled miles. How did a French oak barrel make its way to South Africa? What makes a local Moroccan wine different than a Bordeaux in France? Think of the perseverance of a German winemaker who could not let frost ruin his harvest. They complete the story. Wine is the hands of the people that make every bottle possible.

  So when we drink wine, we touch the hearts of the people and the region a bottle originates. We experience mother nature in her diversity and what she gives us, from the mineral-rich soils and terrain in Africa to the sweeping valleys of Germany. We share a beverage once used for medicinal purposes when freshwater was scarce in the Middle Ages. Indeed, wine culture is worth nurturing and preserving. To do so, we mustn’t run too far away from the past. Instead, a little time travel could restore all that is good, so we can experience it for years to come.

A Brief History of the Malbec

Excerpt from Malbec Mon Amour.  By: Laura Catena and Alejandro Vigil

In Argentina, many people think of Malbec as a local variety. And those who know a little more about its history see the grape as an immigrant whose splendid adaptation makes her Argentine through and through. This would be all well and good if it weren’t for the fact that Malbec has been so extensively documented in France’s wine bibliography. It is impossible to deny the grape’s glorious European past.

  Malbec’s long, eventful history in France is reflected in the number of different names it was given over the years. In the mid 1960s, the French ampelographer Pierre Galet identified more than a thousand different terms for Malbec depending on where it was grown or whomever introduced it to the region in question. For instance, it’s known as Côt in the Loire Valley, Malbec or Malbec Doux in Gironde, Luckens or Lutkens in Médoc, Pressac in the Libourne area of Bordeaux, Côte Rouge in Entre-deux-Mers and Lot-et-Garonne, and Auxerrois or Côt Noir in Cahors, capital of the former province of Quercy.

  In the 18th and early 19th centuries, Bordeaux clarets were light and almost pink in color, as opposed to their competition, Burgundian Pinot Noir, which was dense, fruity and deeply colored. It is likely that Malbec was a catalyst for the transition of Bordeaux wines into the more concentrated style we know today. These days Pinot Noir is the lighter, paler and more delicate of the two.

  DNA analysis carried out in France in 2009 determined that Magdeleine Noire was the mother of the Malbec, and Prunelard its father. The former, which also gave birth to Merlot, comes from the Charentes region, about 80 miles north of Bordeaux, while the fruity and tannic Prunelard hails from Gaillac, located between Bordeaux and Cahors. The cross-pollination probably occurred on the banks of the River Lot in Cahors, perhaps before France was conquered by Roman legions or later, in the Middle Ages.

  Around 150 A.D., the city of Cahors, which was known as Divona at the time, was the Roman capital of the province of Quercy in what is now France. It was here that the first mention of the grape was recorded, although its precise origins continue to be a mystery. Malbec might have come to Divona from Italy, brought by the Roman invaders, or perhaps it was already in France when the Romans arrived in Gaul, and they simply adopted it and continued its cultivation. It is also featured in literary history: praise for the ancient wine of Cahors can be found in the Odes of Horace and in Virgil’s poems.

  Historians agree that in spite of the foreign invasions that occurred during the decline of the Roman empire, Malbec retained its reputation and continued to be grown.

  When we get to the Middle Ages, the story of Malbec becomes inextricably entwined with that of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122–1204) the only woman ever to be queen of both France and England. Eleanor inherited a third of present-day France, the Duchy of Aquitaine, from her father. Malbec plantations are thought to have extended beyond Cahors down to the Pyrenees (Madiran) in the South and across the eastern bank of the Dordogne River from Saint-Émilion to Côtes de Bourg.

  Eleanor preferred the wine from her region over the offerings from the Loire and Burgundy generally chosen by the Parisian aristocracy. At age fifteen, she was married to the man who would soon become Louis VII of France. Later on, the “black wine,” as Malbec would come to be known, most likely flowed at Eleanor’s Courts of Love, festivals of music and poetry where Malbec grew to be appreciated as the wine of the nobility.

  According to oral tradition, the Malbec grape expanded from its native Cahors to Bordeaux in the 18th century, introduced by a Hungarian winemaker called Malbeck or Malbek. In Bordeaux, producers used it to lend more color to their clarets.

Why is the Malbec known as “the black wine?” The exact origin of the term is unknown. The epithet could be related to the belief that harvesting the grapes at night improved the quality of the wine, or to the fact that Malbec’s intense color left dark stains on teeth and tongue.

  After fifteen years of marriage, Eleanor divorced Louis VII and renounced the French crown to marry Henry II of England. Their wedding was most likely drenched in Malbec, the royal wine, as chronicled by the era’s historians.

  The union allowed Aquitaine, now under English rule, to sell the Cahors wines alongside those from Bordeaux across the channel. Malbec now was served at tables across England and Ireland. The children of Henry II and Eleanor who came to the throne, Richard the Lionheart and King John, continued to trade with Cahors and promote the wine.

  But an enterprising bureaucrat also played a major role in the growth of wine exports from the Cahors region. In having the boulders removed from the River Lot, which runs through the area, he ensured that circulation and shipping from the interior would be greatly facilitated, much to the benefit of local wine producers. The move also spawned the birth of a rivalry with Bordeaux, whose officials introduced new taxes and restrictions to limit the spread of Malbec from Cahors. To stem this, Henry III of England placed Cahors wine under his personal protection, meaning that Bordeaux officials could not restrict its transport or sale.

  English traders soon recognized a good business opportunity at hand, and turned Cahors into a major urban and financial center. The main thoroughfare to foreign markets was the port of La Rochelle, which also flourished as an economic powerhouse. Centuries later, Alexandre Dumas would choose the port as setting for his classic The Three Musketeers.

  The grape’s prestige continued to rise, and by the 16th century, France’s Francis I, who was originally from Aquitaine, took such a great liking to Malbec that the grape came to be known as the Plante du Roi (the King’s Plant). The sovereign planted Malbec around his Palace of Fontainebleau and at his favorite retreat, the Vauluisant Abbey north of Dijon. It was also the dawn of the French Renaissance, and the king’s influence made itself felt in the art world. He brought none other than Leonardo da Vinci to his court. It is thanks to Francis I that the Mona Lisa hangs today in the Louvre Museum.

  And let’s not forget that the Catholic Church uses wine in its central act of worship: the Mass. History records that when a cobbler’s son from Cahors was chosen to be Pope John XXII (1244–1334), he declared Malbec to be the preferred communion wine. When the Pope was living in Avignon during the Schism with Rome, he grew Malbec at his palace. That’s not all: By the end of the 17th century, the variety had also become the sacramental wine of the Russian Orthodox Church. Tsar Peter the Great had chosen it as a cure for his stomach ulcers. In fact, Peter had Malbec vines brought from Cahors to Russian Crimea, where it became known as Caorskoie.

  Malbec’s storied past is marked by historical serendipity, territorial alliances, sacred uses and healthy attributes. Popes, kings, and nameless bureaucrats all had a role in establishing the grape as one of the most important varieties on the European viticultural stage.

The Splendor Of Moroccan Wine

By: Hanifa Sekandi

On a robust Saturday afternoon in Morocco, you wander through the souk looking for a stand that brews Maghrebi mint tea. You can feel the history of this land, rich with culture and spirit. Each artisan in this market holds ancient skills, and you know that rare treasures purchased here are indeed worth more than their weight in gold. Time has shown us that sometimes, as people strive for progress, what was once good eventually becomes lost. The souks and riads of Moroc-co allow you to step into the past where time moved slow and living in the moment was the only choice; that life is a series of moments meant to be seized. 

  When we imbibe, sometimes we get lost in the fun, but the true celebration occurs when we al-low our imagination to wander. Time-travel with the fermented grapes of a bottle of Moroccan wine, and ask questions: How did it get across the world to your local wine store? What is the journey and the untold story of the people whose hands brought it to life? Everything created has a story. Allow yourself to get lost in exploration as you travel to northern Africa for the splendor of Moroccan wine.

Slow Growing Vines in the Desert

  Like South Africa, Moroccan winemakers benefit from the favorable weather and terrain. Their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and high mountains, coupled with cooling trade winds, allow low-lying vineyards to flourish in the foothills of the coastal Atlas Mountains.

  Although Morocco has been making wine for over 4,000 years and is the second-largest producer of table wines in Africa, it does not have a robust wine industry or a history comparable to South Africa. The beginning of viticulture in Morocco originates with the Phoenician settlers who ush-ered in trading colonies. Still, it was not until the arrival of French colonialists in 1912 who brought with them winemaking that the wine industry began to take form. Although this was the start of large-scale wine production, it was not a fortuitous upward venture. The Moroccan inde-pendence in 1956 saw a slump in wine production. When the French left, they took their wine-making expertise, leaving approximately 55,000 hectares of wine unattended. Morocco’s wine industry underwent a significant decline.

  Another roadblock for Morocco’s wines was in 1967 with the introduction of European Econom-ic Community quotas. Now, wines with the label made in France, for example, could not contain grapes from other countries. In turn, this exponentially reduced the exportation of wine to EEC countries. During this time, Moroccan vineyards were unable to thrive, with limited entry to time-honored markets. In addition, surplus production from Mediterranean wine-producing countries made it hard to measure up.

  Further, the infrastructure and the resources needed to scale production like its competitors proved uneconomically feasible for Moroccan vineyards. This led to vineyards planting and har-vesting different crops. In the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, vineyards were taken over by the state, and new protocols further diminished wine production. Additionally, vineyards could not compete due to fixed grape prices that were not determinant on the quality of the grape yielded. Most vineyards were deemed poorly operable due to insufficient production and management.

  The turning point for Morocco’s wine industry began in the 1990s under the rule of the second king of Morocco, Hassan II of Morocco, a graduate of the University of Bordeaux in France. He was known as the peacemaker for foreign relations in northwestern Africa, and, as a result, he parlayed the return of French investments and prowess in winemaking to Morocco. French inves-tors were offered long-term lease agreements for vineyards owned by the state agricultural com-pany. This offer was also extended to other foreign investors who could improve the Moroccan economy with industrious ventures. Tailan, William Pitters and Groupe Castel, well-known Bor-deaux-based wine companies, seized this opportunity and rejuvenated Morocco’s wine industry. It has proven beneficial on the world stage since Morocco’s Boulaouane a Castel is now a best-selling wine in France. Hassan II of Morocco’s efforts have been attributed to the revival of Mo-rocco’s wine industry and becoming the second-largest producer of wine in the Middle East. This accomplishment is worth mentioning given that Morocco is a predominantly Islamist governing country that prohibits the consumption of alcohol and sale of alcohol locally. Wine is sold at ho-tels and restaurants and contributes to keeping up with tourism demands.

What We Plant Grows

  The international wine export industry has helped Morocco gain recognition. France is the top consumer of Moroccan-made wine exports, followed by Belgium and England. There are five wine regions in Morocco, with fourteen AOGs and three AOCs. The difference between AOC, appellation d’origine contrôlée, and AOG, appellation d’origine garantie, is the grape quality control measures utilized. Popular and familiar tourist wine regions are Casablanca, Boulaouane, and Meknes. Since 75% of wine production is red wine, wine lovers will find an array of red grape Rhône varietals. Vin Gris makes up the remaining percentage of wines along with white wine and the beloved Moroccan Rosé. Vineyards grow Syrah, Merlot, Grenache, Cabernet-Sauvignon and the traditional Carignan grapes which once dominated. Other grape varieties in-clude Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Vin Gris is a greyish-pink-hued wine blended with rosé and white wine.

  A blue-black grape table wine that is indigenous to Morocco is Taferielt. Its origin traces to the Moroccan wild vines that once cloaked the Rif mountains in the sixties. Before pre-phylloxera, where disease plagued vineyards, this vine, called Farrana Noir, could be found in the Balearic Islands. It has yet to make a name for itself but is known by those who visit Morocco. As with all hidden gems, it will have its moment in the sun as Morocco slowly gains recognition in the pres-tigious wine market.

  Wine revelers will note that the cost of Moroccan-made wines is reasonably cheap, but this does not denote the quality. However, some will say that since it is still a burgeoning wine market, people in Morocco are not as discerning about wine as they would be in Europe or North Ameri-ca, where wines are scaled differently.

  Only about 5% of the approximately 40 million bottles produced annually in Morocco are ex-ported. This number is quite eye-opening given the parameters around alcohol consumption in the country. The mystery of who is consuming these wines will only be revealed to those who consume them. That said, this staggering number demonstrates a demand for wine in Morocco even though it is not heavily promoted within the country. It could be a new generation of wine consumers, similar to Germany, where millennials are reviving the viticulture landscape. Those who study abroad return home with a palate that enjoys a glass of wine when dining. Further, they recognize that Morocco houses vineyards with delightfully good wines.

  The stories of Moroccan vineyards are waiting to be told. It is the people who own the land and are responsible for bringing the wine to life who hold what is still unknown. These vineyards are more than just land that grows vines. They demonstrate that what we plant grows, and growth is painful yet beautiful.

Notable Moroccan Wines Domaine des Ouled Thaleb Estate

Zenata Rosé – Domaine OTB

    Zenata Rosé – Domaine OTB is a crisp and refreshing plump cherry and cranberry wine with floral notes. It is made by the Domaine Ouled Thaleb Estate, the oldest and most well-known winery in Morocco. Established in 1923, the winery is named after the tribe that works the winery and owns the land. The composition of this concrete tank-fermented rosé is 30% Syrah, 20% Cinsault and 50% Grenache. This vineyard, known for its exceptional rosé, is located in the northeast Casablanca wine region.

Les Celliers De Boulaouane

Thalvin Boulaouane Vin Gris

  Vin Gris is a popular wine that is a beautiful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Grenache. This is an airy, refreshing wine with floral notes and hints of fresh berries that remind you of hot summer days. Smooth caramel, citrus and honeysuckle notes provide a nice overall finish. This is a popular Moroccan wine for tourists.

Winery Bonassia

Bonassia Cabernet Sauvingon

  Fruity, sweet, and warm with a hint of spice is the   best way to describe this smooth, rich red wine. It pairs well with flavorful Moroccan dishes such as Tagine. Aromatic notes of nutmeg and vanilla enhance the flavor of spices without overpowering the palate.

Why Everyone is Talking About Organic Wine

By: Hanifa Sekandi

Is organic wine a hangover cure? Could this be the answer you have been looking for to quell your day after Reisling’s woes? If it is possible to imbibe and wake up early without the thunderous plus of a headache to remind you of the night before, then surely everyone wants in on this vino du jour. Eating organic greens, grass-fed meat, and poultry and reading the labels of packaged or premade foods to see if they contain preservatives has become ever more pressing. Understanding the connection between what goes into our body and how this impacts one’s overall well-being is at the forefront of consumer goods. It is not just the food industry but also the beverage, wine, and spirits sectors. The scientific revolution ushered in a lot of excitement where increasing the shelf life of food with the use of additives seemed like a promising endeavor.

  Sometimes novel ideas have a downside. In the case of preservative-laden consumer goods, things are not always as they seem. The zealous approach to preserve anything and everything did not take into account the impact such ingredients may have on individuals on a long-term basis. Yes, one could argue that not all additives are bad for you and are necessary. Particularly when one thinks of vintage wines that would indeed spoil without the use of sulfur dioxide (SO2). You are certainly not going to find an organic aged Bordeaux or Pinot Noir that is organic. Alas, most wine enthusiasts understand this and know when purchasing organic wines that the lifespan is short therefore, these wines are meant to be enjoyed upon purchase. The distinction of what constitutes an organic wine is not universal and differs from country to country. The United States has taken on a more stringent approach than Europe and Canada.

What is Organic Wine?

  Since the designation of organic wine varies around the world, it is a case of it depends on where you live. This requires consumers to do their due diligence and research to understand that not all organic wines, although placed in the organic wine section, are made the same. Some organic wines may contain sulfites. If an allergy or sensitivity is a concern, then knowing how to read wine labels is essential. You might be wondering, what exactly are sulfites? Sulfites are preservatives used to maintain freshness and prevent bacteria growth, and in the case of wine, to reduce oxidation.

  Sulfites also influence the taste and appearance of wine and increase shelf life. So that well-aged full-body vintage wine contains this preservative. For some people, sulfites are a sensitivity or allergen that may result in side effects. This ranges from a headache to a rash, hives, stomach pain, swelling, and in severe cases anaphylaxis. Wine free of added sulfites is favorable for individuals with this concern. Keep in mind that even organic wine contains a small amount of naturally occurring sulfites.

  In the US, wines that are labeled organic must be made with organically grown grapes. Winemakers adhere to the rules and regulations of organic farming therefore, the use of fungicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and herbicides is not allowed. The same standard used to evaluate organic foods by the United States Agriculture department is used to assess organic wines. There is no acceptance for simply using organic grapes. It also extends to how the wine is harvested and the yeast utilized for fermentation. Also, how the wine is stored must follow organic processing standards to receive a USDA organic certification. Before storage potassium metabisulfite is used to sterilize and sanitize non-organic wine barrels which would, in turn, impact an organic wine and hence is not permitted. Another rule is that additional sulfites cannot be added to organic wine and if so, it will not be deemed organic by the National Organic Program.

  A wine bottle labeled as “Made with Organic Grapes” signifies that this vintner used organic grapes for their wine but there are added sulfites. Winemakers who choose to produce wines with preservatives are permitted to use non-native yeasts (yeast that is not organic) during fermentation. They may also use up to 100 parts per million additional sulfites. In Canada and Europe, sulfites are allowed and this distinction is made on wine labels. If you see a wine labeled “100% Organic” in Canada, this means that it is made with certified organic grapes and does not contain added sulfites. A regulation distinction that falls in line with the regulations found in the US. A wine with this certification would be permitted for sale in the US since it meets the strict requirements. 

Not All Wines Are Made Equal

  The European Union has allowed the terminology “organic wine” on wines made with organic grapes but contain sulfites. Whereas organic wine in the US must contain less than 20 parts per million of total sulfites to get an organic seal of approval. This departure in regulation has limited European wineries who consider their wine as organic to enter the US market and be designated as such. Vintners in France and Canada, for example, countries that both allow for some leniencies. Argue that additives permit stabilization and longevity of wines. No preservatives mean these wines have a short lifespan — only a few years after bottling. 

  The solution would be to pivot the same way the food industry has and look for organic preservatives to maintain the integrity of the wine. It is hard to change a processing practice that has proven fruitful and effective. Further, this niche wine selection is still in its infancy. Perhaps the growth in organic wine consumption in places like France, where the drinking of organic wine has seen a dramatic increase in the last few years and continues to grow. May usher in an innovative way to preserve wines. Germany is the leading organic wine-growing country.  Vintners in Germany could take the helm and steer this aim in the right direction. If it can be done in the food industry, it is only a matter of time before an expert winemaker finds the solution or middle ground.  So there can be a fair import and export of organic wine trade with European, Canadian, or other organic winemakers worldwide who have a strong desire to enter the robust organic wine market in the United States.

  As more vineyards in France convert to organic they may take the lead as premier organic wine producers and surpass Germany who has the most amount of organic vineyards. With an increase of organic wine producers in France, which houses approximately ninety percent of the global organic wine-growing regions. France has a surplus of wine reserves more than the percentage of organic wine drinkers in its country could possibly drink. Hence, getting access to more consumers in this niche is essential. The US, with its strict regulations, has a high demand for this niche market. But, it lags considerably behind other organic wine-producing regions in production.

An Organic Viniful Future

  By 2023 an estimated 1 billion bottles of organic wine will be consumed. Germany takes the lead with the consumption of the most organic wine consumed. But this might be due to availability more so than popularity; proximity and ease matter. And setting a high standard for quality and wine cultivation has been the norm for German vineyards for decades. 

  Whether or not wine-producing countries will agree on what makes a wine organic. The reality is there is a demand for wine producers to not only take on sustainable cultivation methods but also consider what goes into each barrel of wine they make. As trendy as hangover-free wine may be, it is more than just about staving off a headache it is about the food and beverage industry’s responsibility to their consumer. Understanding that there need to be options. There is a fine balance that can be met.

  Further, organic wine enthusiasts are not necessarily bidding adieu to classically-made wines; they simply desire choice. If organic wines could be the answer to hangovers or possible side effects for some, it is worth exploring for those looking for an alternative. Of course, there is no direct evidence to support the notion that organic wine is the answer wine drinkers have been looking for to solve a dreaded hangover.

  It cannot be argued that people are finding that organic wine does not have the same side effects as its older sibling wines that contain additional sulfites. This is why it has gained a lot of popularity among health-conscious consumers who tout this day-after pleasant effect.  Another step that organic winemakers are moving towards is producing wine with lower sugar content. This coupled with no additional sulfites could be a winning strategy since high sugar content in alcohol is also responsible for the horrible day after feeling that many feel after one too many.

  As the organic wine industry grows and consumers demand cleaner options. The old school way of making wine and the new school approach will need to find a happy medium. So, wine drinkers can continue to experience the rich history of a slowly-aged oak barrel wine while welcoming a fresh organic wine that compliments a modern lifestyle.

Notable Organic Wines

Dry Farm Wines: This vineyard goes a step further and calls its wines pure Natural Wines. They take on a purist approach when it comes to farming and harvest pure natural wines that are not only lower in sulfites but are sugar-free, vegan, biodynamic/organic, free of toxins, contain lower alcohol and keto, and paleo-friendly. Sounds like wine magic, right?! This winery offers a great selection of reds, whites, rose, and sparkling wine. They offer you an opportunity to try a box of different wines and if you would like monthly subscriptions.

Frey Vineyards: As the first US winemakers to be certified organic and biodynamic, Jonathan and Katrina Frey have been crafting organic wines for over forty years. A standout quality of the vineyards where their wines are made is that they use a biodynamic farming method which means that the natural habitat where their vines grow is cared for with consideration of the animals and plants that inhabit the land. The 2018 Biodynamic Chardonnay with a smooth vanilla creamy finish is a delightful organic selection.

How’s Your Mouth Feel?

By: Tod Stewart

The latest vintage of Domaine de la Bon Bouche sets the lips tingling as if tickled by the eyelashes of an angel as it flits on gossamer caresses, coming to alight gently on the tongue. Resting its silky wings, it envelopes the palate in a cocoon of velvety, glycerol-induced unctuousness. Wrapped in a creamy, viscous robe, it perches supplely on the papillae, mustering the steely resolve required to resume an ultimately suicidal (though heart-arrestingly warm and generous) slink down…down…down. Without gritty tannin, without harsh heat, without even a suggestion of chalkiness, it bids, adieu mon amour to my spent taste muscle and departs in a gush of crisp, crunchy yet at once satiny tactile replay.”

Sick of this yet?

Me, too. So let’s get on with it.

  Obviously Domaine de la Bon Bouche is not a real wine, winery, or marketing gimmick (okay, hold that last possibility). Nor is the “review” the product of a real “wine writer” (though considering some of the reviews I actually have had the displeasure of reading, it’s not much of a stretch to think it could be).

  However, if you study that exercise in vinopomposity you’ll notice something interesting. Not once…once…were aromas and flavours ever mentioned. Coincidence? I think not (mostly because I wrote it that way on purpose).

  The point, insofar as there is one, is that there’s a dimension to wine (and spirits and beer and all the other goodies that slide over your palate) that goes beyond smell and taste. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which….(Sorry, but I’ve been dying to shove the “Twilight Zone” intro into one of my bits.) Actually, it’s the dimension of the tactile and it is the zone where those elements that give wine textures roam. The things that make them “silky” or “furry.” “Gritty” or “velvety.” “Round” or “sharp.”

  A highly extracted Alsace Gewurztraminer can come off as almost oily or “creamy” on the palate. A brisk, unoaked Chablis can be steely. A raw young Cabernet will be puckeringly astringent. These non-flavour components are responsible for what the cork dorks generally call “mouthfeel.” When a wine has a particularly noteworthy mouthfeel you tend to resist the urge to swallow it right away. Instead, you hold it in your mouth, roll it around, maybe even chew on it a bit before sending it on its way.

  Some of you, perhaps a very few of you, might care to know where these textural elements originate. Given that I fall into the latter group, and I’m writing this, I’ll give it a brief once over then let the truly curious Google the night away.

  Rumour has it (or maybe it’s actually the truth, who knows, but I’ve got a deadline pending and can’t waste too much time researching), that two French dudes named Semichon (which, translated, means “half chon” and shouldn’t be confused with Semicornichon, which, translated, means “half little pickle”) and Flanzy (whatever) suggested (to whom nobody is sure) that substances called pectins produced tactile sensations in the mouth. (Actually, a fellow named von Follenberg discovered these things in 1914, but it’s harder to riff on his name.)

  Pectins fall into the larger phylum of polysaccharides, and within this party of “Ps” reside a few interesting members including Arabinogalactan proteins (AGP’s – originating in a galaxy far, far away populated – secretly – by those of Arabian descent), Type II Rhamnogalacturonas (RG-IIs; sung, albeit with difficulty, to the tune of The Knack’s My Sharona) and Mannoprotiens (MP’s; typically found dozing in Canadian parliament but also, apparently, found in wine – or into wine, as the case may be.) By the by, I’m not making this stuff up, at least not the names; the descriptors are, however, proudly my own.

  I’ve never really been a “leg man” when it comes to wine (and let’s just call them “tears” instead of legs), but the thickness of those somewhat syrupy-looking trails that slither down the inside of the glass point to the presence of glycerol (and alcohol). The more glycerol the “oilier” or more viscous the wine will feel on the palate.

  Anyway, numerous tests concluded that these fine thingamajigs do, in fact, combine to alter the textural nuances of a wine. And efforts have been made, usually by the pointy-heads, to analyze, categorize and compartmentalize tactile variants. The results, for good or for ill, being “texture wheels” (similar to the oft-cited UC Davis “aroma wheel”).

  So now we know what creates texture in wine. But what causes textures to differ? The answer is found in both nature and nurture. 

  “But how is this going to impress my dinner guests/date/boss/Arabinogalactan-in-waiting?” you whine annoyingly. To which I answer, “All good things in time, grasshopper.” But seeing as there’s no time like the present, here we go.

  If you think about it, texture factors largely in how a wine will tango with a particular morsel of food.

  The zesty, electric acidity and mild sweetness of a kabinett level German Riesling offers the perfect foil for a creamy/salty dish, while the cleansing sparkle of a fine glass of fizz drums down the oily character of smoked salmon. The drying astringency of an austere young Bordeaux can be quelled by the proteins in a rare steak. And like the flavours and aromas of a wine, its texture can change with age.

  Some feel that the texture of a wine is the most important aspect of the whole experience. David Ramey of Sonoma’s Ramey Wine Cellars is one of those types. How important is texture to him? “From my perspective, it’s huge. I don’t care if a wine smells like apples, peaches or whatever, but I really care that it feels good in my mouth. Focusing excessively on a wine’s aroma is like focusing on cologne while making love – it’s not the main event.” I’ll take his word for it.

  Here’s something you can try at home (where else these days?) with minimal cash, fuss and planning that will show you how wine and food can both complement and contrast, and how important the textural aspect can be in making food and wine matches work.

  Get yourself a brisk, zesty Sauvignon Blanc (Loire Valley, Niagara, California, New Zealand, etc.). Hit up the cheese monger for a creamy/crumbly young goat cheese, and the fish monger for a few fresh East Coast oysters. Don’t mess with the purity of the oyster by adding gloopy condiments; knock it back au naturel on the half-shell and follow it with a gulp of the wine. The bracing acidity of the wine marries nicely with the briny bivalve creating a sensation of textural lightness. Now try the same routine with the cheese instead of the oyster. The tang of the young cheese matches the zippy grapefruit zing of the wine, but its palate coating creaminess welcomes the wine’s cleansing quality. A great textual match, but on an entirely different level.

  I recently (finally) got out of the house to celebrate the reopening of Chef Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud in the swanky Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. Not only was I treated to a rather spectacular lunch (with some to-die-for duck), I also had the extreme pleasure of matching the various dishes with wines from one of my favourite Champagne houses: Ruinart. I asked the hotel’s Wine Director and Sommelier, Julie Garton, what her views were on the importance of textural elements in wines.

  “Texture in wine can be very important for pairing,” she informed me, “especially with red wine as it tends to have higher tannin levels. Many factors contribute to the texture/tannin level of wine, including the thickness of the grape skins, ripeness of the grapes, length of maceration and the vessels used to age the wine. Together, these factors can create different textures which can be described as silky, firm, plush, or grippy. As a result of the texture, the wine can pair better with different foods and cooking methods. White wines aren’t without textures either. Certain wines are known for having a creamier or oily texture despite having tannins.”

  She also mentioned that texture helps to balance the respective weights of both the wine and the food matches. Champagne, she assured, made for a fantastic food-pairing partner, notably due to its textural elements. I nodded in agreement (as it is rather bad manners to talk with your mouth stuffed).

  “The bubbles can certainly help to add a creaminess to the texture of the wine. However, often the production method, for example, barrel fermented and aged, along with the dosage level and the type of grapes used tend to have the largest impact on the weight and texture of a Champagne. An Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs will often feel leaner on the palate than a Blanc de Noirs, or a Vintage Champagne, which with age will show more richness.”

  Favourite matches? “A pairing I’ve always loved is Champagne with fried chicken,” she admits. “Champagne is great with fried foods because of its high acidity. The acidity and the bubbles help to cleanse the palate and cut through the fattiness and oiliness of the dish.” Which also confirmed another wine and food rule: simple wine with complex food; complex wine with simple food.

  In the end, writing about wine textures can be a bit difficult, mostly because it’s writing about something we feel. And what we feel, as we all know, often goes beyond words. 

Don’t “Blow Off” Cybersecurity

By: Mark Sangster, Vice President and Industry Security Strategist, eSentire

Martin Luther, the famous German theologian and religious reformer, is credited with saying “Beer is made by men, wine by God.” Had he lived another 475 years, he likely would have added that “Cybercrime is made by the Devil.”  And, he wouldn’t have been too far off.

  Cybercrime is insidious: It knows no borders and as we’ve seen, knows no bounds. In fact, a report from Cybersecurity Ventures predicted that the global cost of cybercrime will reach $6 trillion USD this year. According to the 2019 Cost of Cybercrime study by Accenture and the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of cybercrime to a U.S. organization was $13 million — a significant sum. And, a report from my own company eSentire found that cybercriminals netted more than $45 million in the first four months of 2021 alone. But before you start thinking that means cybercriminals only go after the big guys, consider the fact that it’s small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) that are the primary targets for data breaches (Data Breach Investigation Report, Verizon 2020).

  To be sure, there are threat actors that are out to make trouble, whether it’s disrupting critical fuel pipelines or, like the modern-day equivalent of sleeper agents, quietly accessing classified systems to gather top-secret information or cripple it at a later date. However, what most companies encounter comes as the result of unadulterated greed from a run-of-the-mill cyber crook. Just like your average street criminal, these people attack businesses because that’s where the money is. And like it or not, SMBs, such as family-run wineries and vineyards, make for low-hanging fruit. Cyber attacks on the wine, spirits and beer industry have ramped up in the past year including hits on Brown-Forman, E & J Gallo Winery, Molson Coors, and the Campari Group.

The Earth Is Mine. (What About Your Network?)

  On the one hand, it’s a brave new world for the farming and production aspects of winemaking, thanks to automation advances. But on the other hand, a great deal of manual labor is involved, and despite advances, the wine industry is still considered very much old-school, lagging behind other industries when it comes to the use of technology.

  When you consider the production process from grape to glass, some of the greatest risk of cyber exposure lies on the farming side. Growing the perfect grape comes with a lot of moving parts, and like other production businesses, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are in place to track a variety of processes, from what pesticide was applied on which date,  to the costs involved, etc. Whereas how these things are tracked will vary from vineyard to vineyard, the common denominator is that in most cases the people interacting with these systems are predominantly field workers who might not be the most tech-savvy. Add to this the fact that many front-line remote systems are loosely managed and run on personal field laptops or mobile devices, and you have an ideal attack vector.

  Regardless of whether you are operating a small, family-run vineyard or have a large-scale wine operation, you face an even greater risk each time you sit down at your desk. The vast majority of cyberattacks begin with malware, typically embedded in an attachment sent with a seemingly innocuous email. Maybe it’s an invoice from a distributor you work with, maybe it’s your bookkeeper asking you to review a document, or maybe it’s a complete stranger, hoping you’ll slip up, open his attachment, and launch a malware script that will encrypt your data until you give in to his demands.

  While unsecured computer systems and mobile devices are common attack vectors, it’s safe to assume that as your operation grows, so too does your attack surface. Now wine operations have barcoded, inventory-tracking devices that are used on a remote workflow in the field. That information is fed into a central ERP system that’s tied to another automation system, and so on throughout the production process, as tank temperatures and acidity levels are monitored. Then, too, consider the controls that regulate humidity levels inside a facility or the transfer of wine from tank to tank. Any and all of these systems can be tampered with and if they are, it can negatively affect the end product and your business.

Data, Decanted

  Outside the confines of your vineyard or winery lie even further risks. Supply chains are attractive targets not just for the information they hold but the damage they can inflict if disrupted. Distributors, especially smaller ones, often track depletions manually and share updates via email. Consider the example of a small warehouse in Kansas City that might have 20 pallets of your wine and little to no security solutions in place and then consider how quickly a threat vector could spread via a spreadsheet attachment.

  On the retail side of wine operations, both on- and off-premise operations, offer up other strike zones. Each of these channels has its own supply and inventory management systems that track activity all the way out to individual shops, bars, and restaurants, which again, may or may not have the strongest security posture.

  Nor can you overlook the direct-to-consumer aspect. Customer relationship management(CRM) systems that are used to manage your wine club or market tasting events hold a wealth of personal information, not to mention credit card numbers. They’re gold mines for those looking to sell that information on the Dark Web for a tidy profit and scarily enough, you might never know you’ve been compromised.

Just Enough Rain to Stress the Vine: A walk in the cloud(s)

  In the face of myriad risk and attack vectors, it’s tempting to take the path of least resistance, and send up a prayer that you’ll be among the lucky ones to not suffer a cyber breach. But in today’s climate, that’s risking a lot more than bottle shock. Companies today, regardless of their size or industry, need to assume that it’s not a matter of if they will be targeted by cyber crime, but when. Depending on your size and budget, running a full-scale Security Operations Center might not be in the cards, but there are steps you should be taking to protect your business today and in the future:

●    Suspicious emails should trigger the same reaction as a wine that’s corked. Avoid it at all costs. Phishing emails are a popular attack vector, and unless you know what to look for (and how), you are putting yourself and your company at risk each and every day. Educate your staff on what to look for and make sure that whatever training they receive is specific to the vineyard/wine industry. People like to think they won’t fall for the “Congratulations! You’re a winner” emails, but are they prepared to investigate those emails from your attorney or best vendor? Additionally, you should ensure that your department systems are segmented, preferably using the principles of Zero Trust. That way, if one person accidentally opens a malicious email, they won’t be granting a hacker access to the whole system.

●    Maintain Security Hygiene: Network systems need to be maintained and cared for just as you would oak barrels. Security  hygiene is a critical component of cybersecurity and at the very least should include:

1.   Regularly patch and update your software You’d be surprised at the number of breaches that could have been avoided simply by keeping software systems patched and up-to-date. It’s estimated that a third of all data breaches come as a result of unpatched vulnerabilities when patches were available. (Looking at you, Equifax).

2.   Two-Factor Authentication Is a MUST . Make sure to implement two-factor authentication around all of your company’s key software applications and systems, providing an additional layer of security. Never, ever reuse passwords across accounts or devices, and if your budget allows, implement solutions that employ a Software Defined Perimeter (SDP) approach. Be aware, however, that while these solutions offer advanced security, because they are more complex they are costlier; plus, there are the added costs associated with hiring staff who have the proper expertise to manage them.

3.   Operate on a need-to-know-basis. In general, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of network access your employees have — compromised accounts can be used to create shadow employee accounts which in turn can be used to move around a network. It’s especially important that top-level executives and owners aren’t given the full set of keys to the kingdom just because they’re the boss. Senior-level employees and owners are prime targets for cybercriminals looking for ways to infiltrate a system and move around with impunity. Someone might ask why your front-desk staff is nosing around a payroll system, but no one will question the boss.

4.   Virtual private networks (VPN) are more than a good idea. They provide secure and encrypted connections between systems (files shares, email servers, etc.) and ensure that your communications can’t be intercepted.

5.   Lock down your operational technology (OT) systems and ensure that they are not left internet-facing.

●   Automation technology is complicated and protecting it, even more so. You can’t assume that everyone further down the supply chain is taking a serious approach to cybersecurity or even knows where to start. It’s incumbent on you to protect your business, so talk to the experts. Be sure to talk with your insurance providers, legal team and other key vendors to ensure you have a plan in place for when the inevitable happens.

Something to Think About

  Too often, companies fail to adequately protect themselves against cybercrime, because they are laboring under a trifecta of misconceptions:

●   “We’re not a bank or even a household brand name so we aren’t a target.” This is a prime example of absolutist thinking and the harm it can cause. To the thief, even the poorest person has something worth stealing.

●   “We could never defend ourselves against massive ransomware gangs and state-sponsored actors so why even try?” When it comes to the average cybercriminal, Thomas Crowne they are not. That said, there’s no reason to stand up when the bullets are flying. By carrying out basic cyber protections you can reduce your risk by up to 80 percent.

●   “We never saw it coming.” In the world of cybersecurity, by the time you see the red flag, it’s too late. Heed the little signs. They won’t all pan out to be cyber attacks, but when things go bump in the cybernight, it usually means there’s a monster there. It just hasn’t struck yet.

  The wine industry has a long and storied history and holds an important place in culture and daily life. From small vineyards to wine conglomerates, there are financial gains to be made for the hacker looking to grow his ill-gotten gains. By following some basic steps, you can ensure that cyber criminals are the only ones claiming sour grapes.

About the Author

  Mark Sangster is vice president and industry security strategist at eSentire. He is the author of No Safe Harbor: The Inside Truth About Cybercrime and How to Protect Your Business. Mark is an award-winning speaker at international conferences and prestigious stages including the Harvard Law School and RSAConference. He has appeared on CNN News Hour to provide expert opinion on international cybercrime issues, and is a go-to subject matter expert for leading publications and media outlets including the Wall Street Journal and Forbes when covering major data breach events.

The Pandemic’s Impact on the Wine & Spirits Industry

By: Quinton Jay

The year 2020 was a complicated one for the wine and spirits industry. According to information published in Beverage Industry, the sale of wine at retail and convenience stores grew by some 11.4% in multi-outlet stores throughout the 52 weeks between December 1st, 2019, and November 29th, 2020, and champagne, as well as other sparking wines, saw year-over-year growth by nearly 29%, topping sales at roughly $1.6 billion.

  This boost to wine sales, however, could not fully offset the losses incurred by many other businesses throughout the wine and spirits (WS) industry.

  Fortunately, the U.S. seems to have since turned a corner in the pandemic struggle, and most restaurants and other WS businesses like wineries, distilleries, and breweries (WDBs) that were able to survive the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact are now back open and able to serve customers indoors, or at least in some form of hybrid indoor-outdoor seating arrangement. While this return to normalcy should help the WS industry experience an upswing capable of putting business back on track, some industry experts are still analyzing the true depth of impact the pandemic has had on the industry and the businesses in it, regardless of whether those businesses survived the pandemic’s fallout or not.

  One such expert is Quinton Jay, a WS industry expert, Japanese whisky otaku, and industry consultant with more than 20 years of experience in owning, building, operating, and investing in businesses–specifically those in the wine and beverage industry. We recently sat down with Quinton to learn more about the trends he saw arise within the WS industry throughout the events of last year’s pandemic, how those trends impacted the WS industry as a whole, and where he sees the industry heading over the next few years as a result.

WS Trends Resulting From COVID-19

  According to Jay, one of the most widespread trends that impacted the WS industry as a result of the pandemic was the increase in the amount of WS businesses – including WDBs – that began offering e-commerce and Omnichannel retail marketing. By offering these channels, businesses across the entire WS industry were able to continue selling products directly to consumers (D2C), saving many businesses from having to shut their doors to customers – both online and offline – for good.

  “Methods like Omnichannel retail allowed businesses in the industry to continue selling products D2C,” Jay tells us. “For many businesses, especially WDBs, this was the difference between surviving the pandemic or not.”

  Along with the growing trend of Omnichannel retail marketing, many business owners in the WS industry have experienced what Jay refers to as “business fatigue.” This feeling of fatigue is one that many business owners who experienced the pandemic can sympathize with, but for the WS industry specifically, it could mean more owners of WDBs, restaurants, eateries, or other businesses preparing for financial exits from their ventures.

  “Business fatigue is a real thing,” Jay tells us, “and rather than simply close up shop and call it a day, the better option for business owners is to sell their company to someone willing to acquire, rebrand, and revitalize it.” This trend of business fatigue, according to Jay, could hint at other ways as to how the pandemic left a lasting impact on the industry.

The Lasting Impact of COVID-19 on the WS Industry

  In describing the ways that Omnichannel retail marketing has affected the WS industry in recent years, Jay also mentions the historical lack of innovation – particularly technological innovation – within the industry. In mentioning this, it begs the question as to just how innovation, both during the pandemic and immediately following it, will evolve both for businesses and consumers.

  “Many WDBs and other businesses in this industry aren’t necessarily at the forefront of innovation, especially when it comes to growing their market share,” Jay says. However, as Jay continues to explain it, the writing is literally on the wall for the continued growth of Omnichannel retail, given the industry’s historical customer demographics, current and emerging technologies, as well as the ever-evolving nature and growing competitiveness of the WS industry’s supply chains.

  “The U.S. has been lagging behind much of the world in Omnichannel retail offerings, obtaining less than 10% of all global e-commerce sales for the WS industry compared to China’s roughly 25% share,” says Jay.

  In these matters, Jay’s predictions may not be far off from aggregated industry data. For instance, according to McKinsey’s 2021 Consumer Report, e-commerce sales in the U.S. were projected in 2019 to reach 24% of all retail sales by 2024. This projection later increased to 33% by June of 2020 after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing larger growth in e-commerce retail across the U.S. in six months than it had over the past 10 years.

  “As we continue to emerge from the pandemic,” Jay continues, “I expect many more businesses in the WS industry – especially WDBs – will begin offering or broaden their offerings regarding Omnichannel retail as more American consumers opt for D2C retail channels.”

What’s Next for the WS Industry

  As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, every global industry was forced to evolve virtually overnight. The WS industry was no different. Along with broader implementations of Omnichannel and D2C retail methods and deeper technological innovations, Jay tells us that he also expects many businesses in the industry to rethink the way they operate internally and interact with customers on all levels.

  “Overall, I think the pandemic has left many business owners in this industry feeling defeated,” Jay says. “As a result, we can expect to see an increasing number of companies in this industry become more creative in the ways they can target, reach, and sell their products to consumers, as well as become more innovative in the ways that they handle and react to crisis situations.”

  Indeed, the revitalization of crisis management detail is one vital aspect that every business that survived the pandemic will inevitably have to revisit. For the WS industry in particular, this could mean the addition or inclusion of additional D2C sales channels (similar to the inclusion of Omnichannel retail), but also the way that many establishments in the industry hire and retain talented employees.

  “The U.S. has been experiencing a hiring crisis over the last few months,” Jay adds, “and tons of restaurants, eateries, WDBs, and other businesses that survived the pandemic initially are now struggling to keep up with increased consumer demand as the threat of COVID-19 wanes. By implementing policies that promote employee safety and wellness, offering more competitive wages, and remaining adaptable enough to stay ahead of society’s ever-changing curve, the industry as a whole can prevent the detrimental effects that came as a result of last year’s pandemic from having such a deep and lasting impact in the future.”

How to Succeed in WS Post-Covid

  As Jay mentions, there are a number of precautionary methods and strategies that business owners and managers, and other industry professionals in WS can use to better protect their businesses from suffering in ways similar to how they may have during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  “The first step every business in the WS industry should take is to implement more actionable mea

sures in planning their business strategy,” Jay says. “Start by taking a look at what types and quantities of grapes you have coming in, what bulk wine you have in the tank, your total count of bottled finished goods, and become intimately familiar with your sales run rate: if you know those 4 things, you can plan out your business very well and forecast what your business should be focusing on acquiring in order to avoid jamming up your supply chain.”

  For example, if your winery business finds that its sale run rate has slowed down, perhaps the winery needs to look at selling its bulk wine (wine in barrel or tank), or perhaps can temporarily focus on committing fewer grapes for an upcoming vintage. However, once any particular wine has been bottled, that’s it, which is why Jay says to avoid bottling your inventory until you know what your sales run rate is and how it directly impacts your business. While selling out of a certain inventory item can sometimes be a boon for your business, not selling enough can cause inventories to back up, alerting you that your business will need to discount other items and sell that portion of your inventory faster in order to get back into balance.

  A second method WS businesses should consider, according to Jay, is to revisit and revitalize their plan regarding capital management, or the funding of their business initiatives as they pertain to the needs of a business’s financing or cash flow.

  “Most business owners and professionals in the industry want their business to grow,” Jay adds, “but don’t realize how much money they need, especially regarding the lead time required for fine wines and of many products in the industry as a whole, especially aged beverage products.”

  Indeed, as Jay explains, it can often take one year for most white wines and Pinots to be made and bottled, as well as 2-3 years on average for wines like high-end cabernets. Most red wines can take anywhere between 12-30 months to properly process in-barrel and add to their in-bottle age time from Grape to Bottle. This, of course, takes cash, which is why planning your capital budget is just as important as your sales plan.

  By carefully considering these crucial factors to any business in the industry, Jay explains that they can be better positioned to survive in the face of the next inevitable threat the industry will face in the years to come.

VQA Ontario: The Evolution of a Canadian Provincial Wine Law

By: Tod Stewart 

It’s more than a little ironic to learn that the first known “wine law” was distinctly anti-wine. In an effort to increase the food supply, Roman emperor Domitian (c. 92) issued a decree banning the planting of any more vines in Italy. The hope was that available growing land would be given to planting cereal grains as opposed to grapes. Guess how that all worked out. Though largely ignored throughout the country, it nonetheless stayed in effect for close to 200 years before being repealed by emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus (and much celebration ensued). 

  Wine laws enacted across Europe – starting with those conceived by the Reichstag in 1498 – were generally done for nobler purposes – typically to prevent wine fraud. Fakery became especially problematic in mid-19th century France as the phylloxera blight decimated vineyards and all but dried up the flow of wine. These laws evolved into the familiar (at least to wine buffs) Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system. Similar laws proliferated in wine growing regions around the world. They aimed at establishing geographical origin, permitted grape varieties and yields, and production methods, among other things. 

Generally speaking, wine laws are a good thing for consumers. After all, if you’re spending big bucks on an Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon with the term “To Kalon” on the label (or considerably bigger bucks for a Pinot Noir identified as “La Tâche”), you’ll want some pretty solid guarantee that you are actually getting what you’re paying for. 

  For winemakers, some wine laws can present compliance challenges. I’ve talked to more than one European winemaker who almost envies the amount of freedom given to their American counterparts. Want to plant (more) Albariño in Lodi? No problem. Want to plant Albariño in Chianti Classico or Burgundy? Not so fast….One winemaker here in Ontario actually gave up his winery in Tuscany because he couldn’t deal with Italian bureaucracy. This is pretty stunning testimony given the bureaucracy level in Ontario. 

  Though still considered a “young” wine producing country, Canada today has a thriving wine industry situated largely in Ontario and British Columbia. Wine has been produced in this country for over 200 years, with the first commercial winery established in Ontario in 1866. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s, with the expanded planting of Vitis vinifera varieties and improved winemaking techniques that the emergence of a wine industry focused on high quality began to emerge.  

  The Vintners Quality Alliance Act,1999 designated VQA Ontario as Ontario’s wine authority on June 29, 2000. Broadly speaking, the mandate of VQA Ontario is to enforce the province’s appellation of origin system, control the use of specific terms, descriptions and designations, and set out mandatory winemaking practices pursuant to each specific VQA region and sub-region. Winemakers have some flexibility when it comes to grape varieties – so long as they are either Vitis vinifera or an approved hybrid (eg., Vidal), and there is no restriction as to what variety needs to be planted where. 

  There are the other usual checks and balances around things like brix levels at harvest for specific types of wines and the pedigree of fruit for particular regional designations (the requirements for a wine labeled as VQA Ontario will be more relaxed than for a wine identified as an Estate Grown Chardonnay with the designation VQA Beamsville Bench – a geographical sub-appellation). Labelling terminology is also regulated. 

  As with most wine laws – particularly those governing younger regions – evolution is largely unavoidable. When I contacted VQA Ontario headquarters to get a status update – and to ask how the pandemic had affected operations – I was somewhat surprised by the response. 

  “VQA Ontario has changed its operating name to the Ontario Wine Appellation Authority,” says Laurie Macdonald, the organization’s Executive Director. “When the pandemic began in March 2020, LCBO suspended all VQA tasting panels. The sensory evaluation has been conducted by the Appellation Authority using its own panelists since then and this will continue on a permanent basis.”   

  To backtrack a bit for perspective: for a wine to become VQA certified, it not only has to comply with labelling and packaging standards, and demonstrate geographic origin, it also has to pass laboratory and organoleptic testing. Up until the change Macdonald refers to, both of these functions were carried out by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), the province’s government-controlled beverage alcohol monopoly. This wan’t a bad thing. The LCBO lab is sophisticated and its technicians are, for the most part, top-notch. (Lab analysis is still carried out by LCBO.) The sensory evaluation panel consisted largely of LCBO product consultants – essentially LCBO retail store employees with superior product knowledge and, in the case of those on the tasting panel, proven knowledge of wine defects and various wine characteristics. 

  With the new changes, the panel roster is made up of qualified wine professionals, including sommeliers, winemakers, wine educators, WSET diploma and MW holders. Another change is that wines are no longer given scores (out of a possible 20 points, with 13 required for a passing grade). In the early days VQA actually had a two-tired scoring system. If memory serves me correctly, a score of over 13 counted as a pass and the wine could carry the VQA medallion on the bottle. Those scoring over 15 points could carry a gold VQA medallion. Whether or not I’m completely accurate on this point is more or less moot, as it was eliminated early on in the history of VQA. 

The move away from any type of numerical scoring apparatus is likely a good thing, at least in the eyes of winemakers. In fact, some have grumbled (in varying levels of volume) that the tasting panel itself should be scrapped. The argument for this stance centres around the possible “subjectiveness” of the panel and the awarding higher scores to wines that are personally preferred as opposed to those which are technically sound. It also, perhaps in an indirect way, points to an issue with section (c) of the Act’s sensory guidelines that reads: 

(c) To the extent that an applicant identifies a varietal designation in the application, such wine should exhibit the predominant character of a wine produced from the designated grape variety or varieties 

  Simply put, if you submit a Riesling to the panel for evaluation it should smell and taste like Riesling (and, of course, be defect-free – we’ll get back to that). Some winemakers will claim that this forces them to conform to some arbitrary “standard” that determines what the “predominant character” of a specific grape variety actually is. The “T word” – typicity – is often bandied about, along with the notion that striving for typicity limits innovation. 

  In fact, Niagara’s Pearl Morissette winery’s website contains this statement: 

  “We’ve all been blackballed. Some more than others. But whether it was not getting selected on the school soccer pitch or having the VQA repeatedly pass over your Niagara Riesling on the basis that it “lacked typicity”, getting blackballed has not always been a positive experience.” 

  The winery chose to celebrate this uniqueness with its Black Ball Wine Society, but you still can’t help but suspect there are some hard feelings behind the repeated rejection of its Riesling. Requests I made to have those at Pearl Morissette tell their side of the story were ignored. (To be fair, this isn’t the only winery that refused to answer my VQA-related questions, even with the promise of anonymity. In fact, not one of the over half-dozen wineries I approached chose to answer any of the question I asked.) 

  “It is important to note that ‘typicity’ is not mentioned anywhere in the VQA regulations or procedural documents,” Macdonald points out. “We do not prescribe any typical presentations of varietals for Ontario and aim to recruit tasters with global exposure to a wide range of styles. Innovation is welcome as it should be for a relatively young region. For example, we have seen oak-aged Rieslings which are certainly not typical but have been approved based on soundness. We do however confirm certain category requirements during the sensory testing, for example, sparkling wines must be carbonated, Icewines must be sweet. In my opinion this discussion is really about what is or is not perceived as an unacceptable flaw. Problems typically arise when the “style” is characterized by unacceptable levels of H2S, volatile acidity, brett, etc.” 

  To play devil’s advocate, I could counter that what is “unacceptable” to one taster may not be to another. One of my favourite wines, Lebanon’s Château Musar, wouldn’t be what it is without levels of VA and brettanomyces that may seem off the charts to some. In any case, the real question might be: “If VQA is all about geographic origin, why is there a tasting panel at all? Surely we’re not yet at the point where an Ontario wine’s origin can actually be confirmed by tasting it.” Well, the short answer is because, at this stage, an expert tasting panel is still necessary. 

  In my experience with (and I’ll come clean and say I’ve had some), the VQA/OWAA tasting panel offers winemakers something rather unique and, ultimately, helpful: the opportunity to have wines pre-screened by an objective panel (I should note that all wines are tasted blind – the tasters know the vintage, the varietal(s) if applicable, and style the wine is claiming to be…and that’s mostly it) before they get to the consumer. If there is a problem, the winemaker is informed and has the opportunity to correct it (assuming it can be) and resubmit the wine for re-evaluation. 

  While the VQA designation is not an indication to consumers that a wine is somehow superior to one without, it does pretty much guarantee its geographic lineage and that it’s defect-free. But shouldn’t winemakers be able to determine that their wines are of sound quality (like most places in the world) without some paternal body pointing out when the kid hasn’t lived up to expectations? 

  Macdonald reports that since 2000, failures have declined by10 per cent to a range of about two per cent over the past five years. She also notes that some failures are not the fault (or the sole fault) of the winemaker. Still, technical and microbiological issues make up the bulk of the reasons for failures.  

  “We facilitate ‘Winemakers Forums’ to encourage winemakers to share their experiences, challenges and best practices – suspended for COVID of course,” she informs. “This is intended to support ‘making the best wine possible’ given any set of parameters – vineyard, varietal, vintage conditions, price point, style, etc., and it necessarily includes preventing and managing faults.” 

  Given, ongoing training for winemakers at all levels is no doubt part of the key to producing high-quality, defect-free wines, the other major component is regular, ongoing tasting – and not only of a winemaker’s own wines. I was surprised many years ago as I toured Niagara wineries to hear how few of the local winemakers actually tasted wines of their competition – both international ones and those made by the winery across the street. Some winemakers, at times, seemed to have gotten so familiar with their own “style” that they failed to realize that this “style” included some obvious technical defects. In any case, regular and varied tasting is probably the most enjoyable “homework” most could think of engaging in.  

  As Ontario’s (and Canada’s) vinous landscape continues to broaden, the Vintners Quality Alliance Act,1999 will no doubt continue to be modified to reflect changes within the industry. Macdonald points out that since 2000, there have been a total of 35 changes to the regulations, adding grape varieties, raising minimum brix, allowing new closures, and so on. The last change, made in 2017, was the addition of the “skin-fermented white” category. This sort of flexibility ensures that innovation and creativity can thrive, with the Act lending a degree of guidance to winemakers, while ensuring geographical authenticity and, ultimately, consumer confidence and international respect. 

The South African Winelands: A Story of Endurance

By: Hanifa Sekandi 

South Africa, a place where, if the Winelands could speak, they would tell a story that would leave you spellbound and wanting more, down to the last sip of Pinotage. Every grape has a story: how it began and the many trials and tribulations it endured to take form into a palate pleasing accompaniment for one to enjoy. As simple as it may seem, even with a favorable Mediterranean climate and rich South African soil, the journey to the bottle is what makes this wine an intriguing and highly coveted selection.  

  In 1652, more than 350 years ago, Jan Van Riebeeck led the Dutch East India Company’s settlement in the Cape. The first known record of wine in this region is February 2, 1659. During this time, the medicinal properties found in wine were used to treat scurvy. This made the South African port an ondemand place to voyage to by sailors seeking treatment. Two decades later, in 1679, Stellenbosch, what is now South Africa’s most famous wine-producing region and second oldest settlement, solidified a long-standing legacy in viticulture. Located in the western Cape’s coastal region, vinotourists eagerly explore South Africa’s acclaimed wine estates to experience firsthand the birthplace of this country’s Cabernet Sauvignon — the most abundantly planted grape varietal in this wine region.  

  When Simon van der Stel, namesake of Stellenbosch, established Cape Town’s oldest wine estate, Constantia, it laid the bedrock of winemaking. Political turmoil and unrest have rocked this soulfully rhythmic nation, but preserving the land and all that grows from its soil continues to live and not be forgotten. Establishing this settlement opened doors for robust wine cultivation by the French Huguenots to dig roots into the Cape’s wine industry in the 1690s. Their arrival in the 17th century in the Franschhoek Valley began winemaking as a formidable industry in South Africa. 

Endurance of the African Vine 

  Although suitable microclimates and the terrain permit a diverse repertoire of wines and the high clay content along with water retention aids with steady irrigation, South African winemakers have faced many roadblocks on their way to becoming part of the par excellence standard. Insufficient storage for the aging of wines required the unconventional use of containers used to brine meat in replacement of oak barrels. Wine connoisseurs turned their noses up at this break in practice and cultivation. The South African wine regions also almost met their demise with the grapevine disease Phylloxera.  

  Earlier shortcomings in the 18th century did not demotivate winemakers to forage on. Constantia, a region considered the mother of South African wines, is the home to the dessert wine made from Muscat Blanc, Vin de Constance. It provided a gateway into the exclusive European wine market. One could say that without it, the industry as we know it today would not hold center stage. This country’s acclaimed Sauvignon Blanc grapes, flourishing and gently ripening with the refreshing cool breeze as it brushes across the vineyards of the Constantiaberg Mountain, may not have been birthed had it not been for the perseverance of winemakers who saw sweeter horizons in the future.  

  South African wines are more than just a palate-pleasing libation. They hold conflict and triumph, a journey that continues to reveal itself with presentday winemakers who value tradition paired with modern innovation and sustainability.  

  Stellenbosch University’s department of viticulture is at the forefront of avantgarde and experimental ways of producing wine. The World Wide Fund for Nature movement exemplifies an agreed-upon con-servation ideal among South African wine farmers. The aim is to maintain and nurture the Cape Wineland’s natural habitat. Along with an accommodating climate that favors a vast array of grapes which benefit greatly from the proximity of the Indian and Atlantic oceans cool winds, sustainability and affordable wine prices allow a firm place in the market. South Africa ranks eighth in the world as a wine producer with over 560 Western Cape wineries and over 200,000 acres of grapes planted.  

Wards that Lead the Way 

  Each wine region, also known as wards, has unique characteristics. Stellenbosch is where wine revelers can find South Africa’s most recognized and prestigious wine estates. One fifth of the country’s vines are planted here. This is where a perfect blend of Cinsaut and Pinot Noir comes together to produce the be-loved Pinotage. The exclusive Black Label Pinotage, made from a plot planted in the early 1950s, has a graceful aging period of 30 years. Other wines produced in the illustrious wineries in this region are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chemin Blanc, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Semillon and Chardonnay.  

 The South African wine route may lead you to Paarl, situated on the low lying slopes of Paarl Rock. Since it is more inland from Cape Town, the temperatures here are warmer. The terroir of this region provides for more opportunities in wine cultivation. One would not think that some of the prestigious wines in this country flourish in vineyards high up on the mountains. The beginning of wine in this region is at-tributed to the French Huguenots who settled and planted grapevines and orchards in the late 17th century. Full bodied, decadent fruit reds and tropical notes in white wines can be found here due to the robust grape varieties.  

  Once a wheat producing region, Swartland is located in the Western Cape and just north of Cape Town. The vineyards here appear predominately on the northern side of the Paardeberg mountain. The hot and dry climate is ideal for producing fruitier wines. Scorching temperatures also decrease the negative impact of fungal disease. Bush vines can withstand dry conditions and survive due to their ability to pull water from deep layers of soil. Since they are drought resistant, they are planted in the hottest and driest area of the ward. Chemin Blanc and Shiraz are key grape varietals harvested in the “black land” Swartland. Black Land is a name to denote the rhinoceros bush, which turns black after a rainfall.  

  Another Western Cape region where the vines grow on fertile soils with granite deposits and immense clay volumes is Constantia—recognized as an early immigration settlement in 1685 of the Dutch. The highly esteemed sweet wine touted by European nobility and celebrated by esteemed authors Charles Dickens and Jane Austen isn’t the only premium wine produced in this region today. Bordeaux Blends, a combination of deep rich reds ranging from Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon as a base coupled with another grape variety, has become an adored South African wine selection. Since this region is surrounded by two oceans and experiences considerable shade from the mountains, cooler temperatures are the norm. The result of these cooling winds is the retention of acidity in the grapes. This region is also known for its sublime Sauvignon Blanc.  


Klein Constantia “Vin de Constance” Constantia (2017) 

  A prestigious dessert wine that almost met its end continues to dazzle the palate of the wine world-at-large thanks to its resurrection in the late 20th century. The Jooste family acquired Klein Constantia, who embarked on this revival with Professor Chris Orffer, a viticulturist. To achieve their aim of unearthing this golden, unfortified sweet wine of the past in its most authentic form, they used the expertise of renowned winemaker Ross Gower. Vin De Constance, made from Muscat de Frontignan grapes, is a di-vine sunkissed hued wine with a beautiful burst of citrus zest, a creamy stone fruit finish, and pleasing notes of litchi, rosewater and almonds. You cannot miss the smooth floral aroma that engulfs the senses. It is a wine that ages with grace and can stand the test of time.  

Donkiesbaai “Steen”  

Chenin Blanc 

  Steen is still one of South Africa’s most popular white wines made from grapes in the Witzenberg and Piekenierskloof vineyards. Jean Engelbrecht, owner of the infamous Rust en Vrede winery and Don-kiesbaai winery, is the ingenious winemaker at the helm of the masterful creation of this robust, smooth tropical wine. Lively aromas of pineapple, peach, apricot and lime provide the right balance for seafood dishes or rich pasta entrees.  

Beyerskloof Diesel  

Pinotage 2017 

  This full bodied, deep, dry red wine with deep vanilla, oak, chocolate, plum and black cherry aromas has rave reviews from vino connoisseurs who have been lucky enough to get their hands on the Beyerskloof winery cultivation. It is considered a premium Pinotage, and limited bottles are available for purchase. You may have to join the list to get your hands on a bottle of it. This wine pairs well with spicy dishes or a perfectly seared flank steak. If you are an animal lover, you may be happy to know that the name Diesel is a tribute to the winemaker’s dog.