08 October 2007

Drink to organic wine

Feel sick when you’ve had just a few sips of wine? Then you’ll be happy to know that you can stock up on wine again - thanks to innovation in the organic wine industry.

If you don’t drink wine because you feel slightly ill when you’ve had just a few sips, you’ll be happy to know that you can start stocking your wine rack again. All thanks to innovation in the organic wine industry.

Wines produced without sulphur dioxide have become a solution for wine lovers who are sulphur intolerant. At the forefront of these developments is a beautiful organic winery, situated in the semi-arid Namaqualand hamlet of Trawal.

Stellar Organic Winery is the producer of Africa’s very first sulphur-free organic wine. While the Rossouw brothers have been in the business of organic wine farming since 1998, they started to produce their sulphur-free wine more recently – an exciting move that affects consumers on a very personal level.

Sensitive to sulphur or histamine?
Leé Griffin, who heads Brand & Marketing for Stellar, explains that people generally react to one of two things in wine: sulphur dioxide or histamine. Both occur naturally in wine, but sulphur dioxide (a preservative) is also artificially added to almost all wines produced in South Africa.

If you drink wine and immediately experience an adverse reaction (e.g. red nose, wheeziness, scratchy throat, hayfever reactions or itchy skin), you’re probably sensitive to sulphur dioxide. If, on the other hand, you feel “fuzzy” the next morning (hangovers excluded!), your body could be reacting to the histamine, Leé explains.

People who are sensitive to sulphur dioxide often also react to fruit juice and dried fruit preserved with sulphur dioxide, whereas histamine-intolerant individuals are often also sensitive to coffee, cheese, chocolate and fish.

Research shows that histamine levels in food are generally ten-fold more than that measured in wine. But we often combine wine with foods such as cheese and chocolate – a situation which could exacerbate the negative effects.

Obviously, wine that contains less sulphur dioxide and histamine would have less of an effect. While researchers are currently trying to establish how histamine levels can be lowered, sulphur dioxide-free wines are already available. This is a major step, as it has long been believed that wine cannot be made without the preservative.

Stellar Organic Winery boasts the largest refrigeration system on a wine farm in the country, which means that the grapes can be cooled down within 24 hours. This, plus the fact that the wines are processed under extremely hygienic circumstances, means that it’s mostly unnecessary to add sulphur dioxide at any stage of the winemaking process – a rare feat.

Leaders in organic wine farming
Stellar is also a prime example of a winery that’s making great strides in getting organic farming right.

The good news is that this industry is steadily growing in South Africa. The list of organically certified wine producers also includes:

  • Kolsvlei (Trawal);
  • Matjiesfontein (Trawal);
  • Nuwehoop (Vredendal);
  • De Duinen (Van Rhynsdorp);
  • Troe-troe (Van Rhynsdorp); and
  • Swartbooisberg (Kakamas).

Why go the organic route?
Apart from lowering your exposure to harmful chemicals, here’s why it pays to support organic wine farming:

1. It protects the environment
Organic farmers work with nature and not against it. A fully-functioning organic farm is a balanced, self-contained ecosystem, wherein animals, birds and insects actually help to control pests.

Organic vineyards teem with life. Birds chatter, ducks waddle, stripping the vineyard of snails, earthworms work their way through the ground and the air is fresh – as no chemicals, pesticides or herbicides are used in growing the grapes.

At Stellar, ducks are used to keep vineyards free from marauding snails.

2. It’s a sustainable method of farming
Organic grapes are grown, handled and processed using renewable resources and soil- and water-conservation methods.

3. It makes economic sense
Worldwide, the organic wine industry is booming. Stellar Organic Wines is already capitalising on the trend by exporting 85-87% of their wines. By supporting our local organic farmers, we can boost their chances of expanding and exporting. The spin-off is that the wines will also become more affordable locally. At this stage, sulphur-free organic red wine retails at approximately R40 per bottle.

For more information, visit the Cape Town Natural and Organics Expo from 12-14 October 2007. Also check out and

- (Carine van Rooyen, Health24, October 2007)

Read more:
Organic trend not a passing phase
10 steps to sustainable living


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