09 February 2018

The science of drinking wine

Here’s our numeric guide to knowing, serving and drinking grown-up grape juice.


This is the maximum alcohol level you should be looking for in a summer wine. Generally speaking, the lower the alcohol, the lighter the taste.

Wine is made when natural yeasts convert the sugars in grape juice into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Grapes with high sugar levels lead to richer, bigger wines – best suited to nights in front of the fire.

A sultry evening is done no favours by a 15% Shiraz, but a light Pinot Noir is liquid air-conditioning.


The warmest your wine should get. It’s the ideal temperature for bigger, bolder red wines with a hefty chunk of tannin. Warmth brings out the alcohol and sweetness in a wine, while cooler temperatures accentuate the acidity and tannins.

Anything above 21ºC and the evaporation of a wine’s alcohol quickens, affecting its aroma. If you’ve bought a couple of bottles for a braai, keep them in the fridge. Yes, even the reds.


The shits you should give about anyone putting ice in their wine. It’s their wine, man. And nobody wants warm wine in summer.

1 million

The number of bubbles in a glass of Methode Cap Classique. Served ice cold, bubbly is wine’s answer to beer. It’s fizzy, refreshing and it pairs with just about any meal.

9 321

The number of hectares given to Sauvignon Blanc in South Africa. Chilled right down, the freshness of a Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect counter to humidity, sunburn, fresh oysters and braai smoke.

Cape Town-based wine writer Christian Eedes recommends the Shannon Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2014. “It’s not green and has a dash of oaked Semillon that adds some interest,” he says, adding that Sauvignon Blanc drinkers should mix things up in the ice bucket with a Chenin Blanc or two.


The decade in which the Caperitif vanished. A South African aperitif made from fortified wine and botanicals, according to Adi Badenhorst, a Swartland winemaker who is resurrecting the spirit, it was first used as a “medicinal libation” in the 1800s.

Kyle Dunn, a winemaker working with Badenhorst, says that it’s known in the elite cocktail scene as the “ghost ingredient”. The Savoy Cocktail Book still contains more than 40 recipes with Caperitif as an ingredient. Caperitif 2.0 is being launched this month and can be served over ice, with tonic or in a classic cocktail.

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