Going wine tasting

BY: Hadiza Nuhhu-Billa Quansah
Visitors getting ready to board a wine tram to the wine estates
Visitors getting ready to board a wine tram to the wine estates

We are used to wine parties in Ghana but certainly not tours that are exclusively meant for wine tasting.

Imagine having the whole day to yourself sitting in wine trams as they journey through rolling vineyards in an open-side team and open-air tram-bus stopping at some of South Africa's oldest and most distinguished wine estates.

Cape Town has become one of the most visited cities in the African continent in recent times, with countless tourist attractions for people who seek to go on vacation.

It is no doubt that the Cape Winelands boast of the most prestigious wineries on the planet.

Wine-tasting tradition

It is said that wine tasting is the sensory examination and evaluation of wine. This tradition of wine tasting has been around for centuries and it is equally as ancient as the production of wine itself.

Modern professional wine tasters (such as sommeliers or buyers for retailers) use a constantly evolving specialised terminology which is used to describe the range of perceived flavours, aromas and general characteristics of a wine.

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There are several Cape wine routes any reveller would wish to visit in the largest winemaking region in South Africa which dates back to 1659. Grippingly, each wine route is unique in producing wines that are celebrated all over the world.

For instance, this reporter had the opportunity to tour the Franschhoek Valley which has a breathtaking scenery, warm hospitality, world-class cuisine and fine wines. Indeed, these are the hallmarks of this beautiful wine route in the heart of the Cape Winelands.

When the Huguenots first settled in this spectacular valley over 300 years ago, they brought with them their traditions and knowledge in winemaking and viticulture from their native France and transformed the wilderness around them into one of the most beautiful valleys in the world.

There is a variety of cellars, from small boutique wineries to large cellars which offer award-winning wines for tasting.

The wines range from plump reds to elegant whites and delicious sparkling wines.

Haute Cabrière is also one of the vineyard estates located in Franschhoek, South Africa.

It was also started over 300 years ago by Huguenot settlers from France, and primarily grows Chardonnay and Pinot noir varietals.

Along with still wines, they also produce Method Cap Classique wines, which are sparkling wines made using the same technique as that of Champagne using double fermentation and dosage.

These wines are labelled under 'Pierre Jourdan’.

Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate also wears her 300-year history with style.

It is nestled within the Franschhoek Valley in the Western Cape and surrounded by 47 acres of lush vines.

This is heartland South African wine country at its finest. The estate is home to Grande Provence’s award-winning wines and its passionate winemaking team.

Following harvest every year, carefully selected wines leave the estate to compete in some of the world’s most prestigious competitions – the number and frequency of the awards bear testament to their success.

Another wine estate is the Meerlust which is revered for its red wines.

This vineyard belongs to the Myburgh family since the 1756 and the farm is situated 15km South of Stellenbosch.

The wines are only made from grapes grown on the estate and the wines produced have wonderful complexity and character.

The signature wine of the estate is the Rubicon which is manufactured with a desire to match the Bordeaux blends of the French.

Wine as health booster

According to medical experts, too much alcohol is not good for our health but if you are a wine lover, drinking wine grants you significant health benefits.

It promotes heart health and decreases blood clotting.

Taking advantage of the health benefits of red wine is not a new practice.

Research conducted at Harvard University found a jar in the tomb of King Scorpion I, dating back to 3150 B.C., that contains traces of wine along with herbal residue.

Based on the findings, researchers attest to the great antiquity of Egyptian herbal wines as medicine and their importance under the pharaohs during the country’s initial unification.

These wines contained dissolved herbs, including balm, mint, sage, thyme, juniper berries, honey and frankincense, and they were consumed to treat a number of health conditions, from digestive issues to herpes.

Apart from its crisp and sweet flavour, the white wine has its own secrets.

According to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, wine consumption was associated with a significant increase in HDL cholesterol, with participants seeing their levels improve by 11 to 16 per cent.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst also found out that red wine might slow the passage of glucose through the small intestine and eventually into the bloodstream, helping prevent the spike in blood sugar levels experienced by patients with type two diabetes.

This research proves that because of the benefits of red wine, it can actually be part of a diabetic diet plan when consumed in moderation.

In addition, a study conducted at Purdue University found that red wine might help fight obesity.

This is due to a compound found in grapes and other fruits (such as blueberries and passionfruit) called piceatannol, which has a similar chemical structure to resveratrol (resveratrol is part of a group of compounds called polyphenols.

They are thought to act like antioxidants, protecting the body against damage that can put one at higher risk for things such as cancer and heart disease).

Heart/metabolism improvements

According to the wine experts, drinking white wine with dinner has been proven to provide similar heart and metabolism improvements.

In fact, drinking two glasses of white wine a day can decrease the chances of contracting heart disease by up to 25 per cent.

Similarly, some white wines are said to have the ability to protect the heart against ageing.

Cholesterol level reduction

No matter what colour of wine you drink, you can see significant reductions to your cholesterol.

Lung function

White wine lovers can (literally) breathe easily because drinking whites have a direct correlation with better lung function.

Whites possess the antioxidants and nutrients that keep the tissues healthy and stop the development of molecules that destroy the lungs.

Wine storage

Most wines are best enjoyed within a few years of release.

If you are the type who loves to pick wines and store them, then you need mini cellars or some simple racks in a safe place.

According to wine experts, heat is enemy number one for wine.

Besides, you have to rule out your kitchen and other places with hot temperatures as they could affect your wines.

Store bottles on their sides.

This keeps the liquid contents in contact with the cork and prevents the cork from drying out and letting in too much air, which can lead to oxidation.

It is said that once a wine oxidises, there is really nothing you can do to save it. You can feel free to store them sideways, upright, whatever you see fit.

Finally, make sure to protect your wine from vibrations.

Just remember that light and any kind of prolonged jostling or regular shaking can lead to your wine ageing before its time.