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Your Questions

Q

Can you tell me if there is a difference between pinot noir and spätburgunder, and is pinotage part of the same family?

Ian McCarthy, Fremantle, WA

Pinot noir, an ancient grape variety, is planted almost anywhere that has winemaking ambitions. As a result it is known by many different names, depending on where it is grown. In Germany it is known as spätburgunder – spät meaning late (ripening) and burgunder meaning Burgundy – but it is exactly the same grape we know as pinot noir.

Pinotage isn’t true pinot but instead a crossing of pinot noir and cinsaut, bred by South Africa’s Professor Abraham Perold back in 1925. Presumably South Africa’s warm climate wasn’t ideal
for finicky pinot but by breeding with the heat-tolerant cinsaut, he created a grape more at home in the Cape.

Q

I have heard that something called ‘mega purple’ is sometimes introduced into wine. What is the purpose of this addition and is it only used in cheaper wines?

Peter Davies, Brisbane, Qld

Mega purple is a highly pigmented, sweet concentrate made from Rubired grapes. It boosts colour (hence the name), and can add mouthfeel and texture. Winemakers use it when they want to enrich a wine’s colour or adjust the palate weight of a wine they feel may be lacking. The manufacturer (Constellation) doesn’t publish sales figures so it is hard to know how much is produced but its use isn’t limited to those making less expensive wines. However, very few winemakers will admit to using it as additions are often frowned upon by certain sectors.

Q

Decanters seem to come in many exotic shapes and forms. Which shape is most ideal for aerating and presenting wines.

Kate Miller, Sydney, NSW  

I’m not sure any decanter is ‘better’, whatever the manufacturer claims. Choose one that appeals to you personally, keep it scrupulously clean and rinse it out well after use as more intricate shapes can be a devil to clean if you leave red wine.  

Q

Are organic wines sulphur-free or simply free of added sulphur?

Colin Andrews, Central Coast, NSW  

No wine is sulphur-free as a small amount is produced as a by-product of fermentation. Organic vineyards can use sulphur sprays to prevent powdery mildew and a wine labelled as organic can have sulphur added prior to bottling. Each country has regulations for SO2 in bottled wine and often the limits are lower for organic wine.

For example an Australian winery exporting a white table wine into the European Union is allowed 200mg per litre of sulphur, however, if it is labelled as organic, it is only allowed to have 150mg/litre.

Got a wine-related question?
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Email wine@gourmettravellerwine.com.