Monthly Archives: May 2013

Wines of South Africa

south africaCC image courtesy of orkomedix.

Posted by Byron Crowe II on May 9, 2013.

Although wine may not be your first thought when you think of Africa, it is home to one of the top ten wine-producing countries in the world.  South Africa, a large country on the continent’s southern tip, has a rich history of wine production. The first South African wines were made over 300 years ago by Dutch Colonists using wild grapes that grew along the southwestern coast.  Today, South Africa has garnered international acclaim for the wide variety of fine wines produced in its unique, southern-Mediterranean-esque climate.

The Grapes

While white grape varietals dominated South African production as late as the 1990s, there is now a greater amount of balance between red and white production, with 45% of hectares planted being red varietals. The top white varietals include Chenin Blanc—referred to locally as “Steen”—Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay.1  The most-planted reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinotage, and Merlot.2 Continue reading

Reading Sparkling Wine Labels


Posted by Sarah Wickham on May 6, 2013.

Wine labels.  Simple stickers affixed to 750mL of fermented grape juice.  My father logs the majority of the wines he drinks by peeling the label and saving it in a notebook with his tasting notes, often accompanied by notes about the food that accompanied the wine at dinner that evening, what he and the rest of our family were doing that day, and what the weather was like.  The notes are sometimes heavy on the wine, sometimes heavy on life; it seems to depend on the day.  He has quite the collection of filled notebooks, and I love to page through them when I’m home over the weekend.  With the labels and a few notes as an aid, he can vividly recall wines from almost a year back, sometimes longer. (My favorite note so far: “Had this one for Greg’s birthday.  Pork chops and sweet potatoes.  We really liked it.  Greg is not here.”)

We rely heavily on labels to help us understand what the bottle holds, where it is from, when and how it was made, its alcohol content, and ultimately, if we are likely to enjoy it.  The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualite (which confusingly goes by an old acronym, INAO), and the EU set forth numerous requirements for labels to protect consumers and producers.  The regulations assist consumers in understanding the quality and origin of the wine and help uphold the reputations of the regions that produce them. While these intentions are sound, the laws are often so convoluted or obscure that they are lost on most consumers, many of whom already find appellation naming, vintages, and varietals overwhelming.

I offer this, the first installment in my primer for reading the tea leaves of the wine labels: sparkling wine terminology. Continue reading

An Intro (for Dummies) to “Intro to Wines”

Intro to Wines

Posted by Lilian M. Loh on May 2, 2013.1

So you’re done with 1L and now looking to fill your upperclass course load with a senioritis mentality.  Have a Wednesday afternoon gap?  Why not sign up for Cornell’s famous Introduction to Wines class?

You might be hesitant because it is the most-failed class at Cornell.  Professor Mutkoski will be the last to deny that: he wants you to work for those two credits.2  However, these two credits don’t apply to law students.  For $30, you get zero credits towards your legal education, but you get approximately 72 ounces of wine and a clarinet-like case containing three wine glasses.  Here are a few tips on how to get through (and maybe even pass) this course:3 Continue reading