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Rooibos: an alternative to sulphur?

A winery in Stellenbosch is channelling the antioxidant properties of South Africa’s native rooibos plant to avoid adding sulphur to its wines.


Last year saw Audacia Wines release a red wine, a Merlot, made using this technique, which replaces its usual imported oak staves and chips with rooibos wood, as well as honeybush, which has similar properties.

More commonly associated with tea, rooibos is prized for its high level of antioxidants. As a result, Audacia has been able to avoid using sulphites, which are often associated with headaches and are linked to allergic reactions in a small percentage of the population.

Following successful results, the winery has now added a white expression in the form of a 100-case release of Chenin Blanc that has also been made in this way.

Although Audacia has claimed this development as a “world first”, fellow South African producer KWV also recently released a brand deploying rooibos and honeybush in a similar way. Meanwhile an Italian company has been trialling a preservative derived from grape pips.

For now, Audacia, which is hoping to patent its system, has hailed the discovery as “creating an exciting new wine category”, noting not just the preservative benefits but also the “unique flavours” imparted on the wine by this alternative wood source.

Audacia is not the only wine producer to be experimenting with different types of wood. Bodegas Tobía is looking to create a different profile for its Rioja by experimenting with barrels made from ash, chestnut and acacia.

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