Merlot

Audacia Winery Says Goodbye Sulfites, Hello Rooibos

The rooibos tea latte at Starbucks is my jam on days I am too hyped up for caffeine, so when I heard about a South African company using rooibos chips as a wine preservative, my ears perked up.

Audacia Winery has patented the technique, which reduced traditional preservatives like sulfur dioxide by using the natural one–a plus for folks like me who are technically allergic to sulfites, but drink wine anyway.

Trevor Strydom, a managing partner at Audacia, told Reuters that he, along with the company’s winemaker dropped rooibos teabags in wine to experiment with the effects. And they were pleased by the effects. While rooibos leaves are used for tea, it’s the wood chips that Audacia incorporates into its process.

Check out Strydom’s conversation with Reuters in the video, below:

Wood has long been incorporated into winemaking–think oak barrels and chips, which are thought to be more sustainable than the former–but not rooibos chips.

Rooibos has no caffeine and is low on tannins, making it a good option for winemaking. Strydom told Vice last year that the rooibos wine could cut back on headaches.

Rooibos and honeybush chips are used to make Audacia’s Merlot, which has a sulfur dioxide level of 3 mg/liter, according to wine-searcher.com. I was curious and checked my wine bottles at home, but most say “contains sulfite” and not an exact amount. But Winemaker Magazine instructs that the rule of thumb for sulfite concentration is 25 mg/l to 50 mg/l with 100 mg/l being used if you’re using moldy grapes.

This Chilean Wine has a Chinese Label

Let me tell you a story from my annual Oscar Party (I know, I know, the Oscars were weeks ago! Forgive me.): My friend brought over two reds from Chile, but the labels were in Chinese! Well, maybe Chinese, maybe Korean, but for sure Asian characters, and my money’s on Chinese.

She bought the wine, a 2012 Sapphire Merlot, at a grocery store in LA called Jons, which is known for international fare. I feel like the wine could have had the funky label–fit with a female Anime character–because Jons caters to an Asian and Latino population, but more likely, the language-specific bottles were residuals from imports to China.

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Imports of foreign wine into China have been on the rise since the early 2000s, but at the beginning of the year, import tariffs on Chilean wine were lifted in mainland China, which further underscores why this Chilean wine most likely had a Chinese label. Imports from Chile jumped by 37% in volume in 2013 and in the firs nine month of 2014, increased by 50% in volume, according to DecanterChina.com.

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So with that economics lesson taken care of, let’s get into how this wine tasted.

My reaction: “I don’t hate it.”
My friend who brought the wine: “I’m not offended.”

The truth is the Merlot didn’t taste like much. It was pretty plain, flat had soft tannins, and emitted little smell. It kind of just exists there in your glass. We all thought it would make for a good Sangria base or maybe a reduction for a marinara. But I must say my other half tried marinating some steak with leftovers of this wine’s Cabernet Sauvignon cousin and the result wasn’t pretty–too grapey and not smokey enough.

That said, we did finish off a whole bottle of the Merlot that night, so it was easy to glug.

Nuts and Bolts

Winery: Sapphire
Type: Merlot
Origin: Central Valley, Chile
Price: Unknown
Alcohol content: 13%
When to drink: I’d skip this unless you want to buy the wine for the novelty of the Chinese label.