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Western Cape winery believes rooibos can revolutionise industry

| Wine and liquor

A Western Cape winery, which is aiming to revolutionise the winemaking industry by using rooibos in the production of wines, has released a white wine with no sulphites or other preservatives added.

Audacia Wines in Stellenbosch last year released a red wine made using rooibos chips. The winery has replaced traditional imported oak wood derivatives including staves, chips and powders normally used in the winemaking process with indigenous rooibos wood to produce wine with no added sulphites, used to preserve wine, or preservatives.

The rooibos wood derivatives, which are placed inside the large steel containers that are used to ferment wine, are produced along exactly the same lines as the imported oak products usually used in winemaking.

Recent research by the department of viticulture and oenology at Stellenbosch University and ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij found powerful antioxidants in rooibos that may assist in preserving the wine naturally. This method has the potential to eliminate the need for sulphur dioxide and other synthetic materials as preservatives.

Speaking at the launch of the white wine at a media briefing on Thursday, Audacia director Trevor Strydom, said that following the success of the red wines since launching last year the logical step was to produce some whites.

Mr Strydom, who was accompanied by winemaker Neil Patterson, explained that sulphur was commonly used as a preservative in wine. Some people, however, were allergic to sulphur.

"The antioxidant-rich indigenous rooibos and honeybush wood chips we use in our winemaking process removes the need to preserve wine by adding sulphur," said Mr Strydom.

Audacia is in the process of patenting the method in more than 80 countries.

The company is also conducting trials on "low kilojoule, low alcohol" wines.

Traditionally, when lowering the alcohol level in wines, more sugar is added, which changes the taste of the wine.

Audacia is seeking to produce a low sugar, low alcohol wine without compromising the taste.

Mr Strydom said the company was already exporting its wines to China, Australia and Italy, among others.

Speaking at the same media briefing, Western Cape economic opportunities MEC Alan Winde, said Audacia’s innovative products were a boost for the province’s agri-processing sector, specifically in the wine industry.

"In the Western Cape, 167,494 residents are employed in the wine industry. Close to R20bn (53%) of the wine industry’s contribution to national GDP (gross domestic product) is generated in the province," the MEC said.

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