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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2002-06-14)

Four rather exotic new products have been released on the market by Pernod Ricard South Africa, the big liquor company which is very active in this country and has its origins in France.

Three cater for the present demand, among young people in particular, for fruit flavoured wines. They carry the Gecko Ridge label, this being one of Pernod Ricard’s best known brands, and they are called Peach Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc Tropical Fruit and Melon Gooseberry Sauvignon Blanc.

They are slightly carbonated, low in alcohol (5,5% compared with about 12,5% for most ordinary wines), and they come in attractive frosted bottles. According to Pernod Ricard, these three are “in a transitional wine segment combining real varietal wine with natural fruit flavours, and they will enjoy strong appeal with both occasional and moderate wine drinkers”.

I am neither of these, but I tried the melon gooseberry sauvignon blanc and found it very palatable and refreshing, just the thing for a pre-lunch drink on Sunday. If you are an occasional and moderate drinker I suppose it would be just the thing for any time. Retail price is about R20 a bottle.

The other new product from Pernod Ricard is called Ilala, and this one is intended to satisfy the current enthusiasm for drinks with ethnic names and a vaguely ethnic character. It is marketed as “the taste of Africa” and is based on the sap of the Ilala palm, which grows in the sub-tropical parts of Southern Africa. Traditionally, it seems, this sap was brewed into an alcoholic beverage which was passed around in a pot on festive occasions.

This modern version is alcoholic all right, 27% by volume (compared with 43% for brandy, whisky and other spirits and about 30% for most liqueurs). It is described as a spirit aperitif, it has a distinctive, nutty, rather toffee-like flavour, it comes in a tall dark bottle with a quite striking indigenous label, and the makers recommend that you drink it as a sundowner, over coffee, or with crushed ice. I found it excellent as a chilled liqueur. Retail price is about R66 a bottle.

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If you need another excuse to drink, here’s a new one. Researchers in Holland say that a moderate daily intake of alcohol helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This conclusion was reached by scientists at the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, after a study involving 5,395 people aged 55 and older. Moderate drinkers apparently had a 25% lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s. It didn’t matter whether they had wine, beer or spirits. Moderate was defined as one to three drinks a day. – Michael Green




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