One of my favorite things about writing this column is answering your questions. And based on reader feedback, it’s one of your favorites, too. This week I’ll address decanting boxed wine, the difference between sulfates and sulfites and the term “Cape red.”
If you have a wine question, please don’t hesitate to write or email.
We don’t like putting boxed wines in our refrigerator because we just don’t have room. Does transferring the box wine to a bottle change the quality?
Box wines can be bulky, making storing them in a full refrigerator difficult. But decanting a boxed wine for storage defeats the purpose of the box. The boxed wine has a bladder inside that collapses when wine is poured, giving it a protective layer against oxygen. My concern when transferring wine from the pour spout to a bottle is you are immediately introducing a lot of oxygen to the wine. This act alone can begin to make the once-fresh wine taste stale. My advice, if you’re looking for refrigerator space, is to consider removing the bladder from the box, making it less bulky. Be sure to place the spout lower than the wine in the bladder to avoid letting air in when you open the spout. My recommendation is to keep bottled wine bottled and boxed wine boxed. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with decanting a boxed wine for serving.
What is the difference between sulfates and sulfites?
Sulfates and sulfites are both sulfur-based compounds. You most likely encounter sulfates daily. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a strong detergent additive that aids in removing grease by binding oil to water. You will find this in most dish soaps, floor cleaners, shampoo and body washes.
Sulfites are found in most wines. They are naturally occurring and act as a preservative by inhibiting microbial growth. Again, just as with sulfates, you are most likely encountering sulfites daily. They are found in many foods including dried fruit, candy, deli meat, canned soups and hot dogs. Even though sulfites are naturally occurring, most winemakers also add sulfur dioxide during the winemaking process to ensure against spoilage.
What does the term “Cape red” mean when I see it on South African wine labels?
A quick geography lesson while looking at a map of South Africa can explain the term “Cape.” It’s any large piece of land protruding into the sea from the coast. South Africa has the Cape of Good Hope, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Cape Peninsula. What does this have to do with wine production? Along the southern coast of South Africa is where the warm currents of the Indian Ocean meet with the cool currents of the Atlantic Ocean. Many South African vineyards are spread throughout these regions. This occurrence where two oceans meet creates a specific climate with a lot of influence on winemaking. A strong, dry wind known as the “Cape Doctor” can damage unprotected grapes but has the positive effect of limiting growth of debilitating fungus and mildew in the vineyards. “Cape reds” are generally South African red wines made from a blend of the country’s most prestigious red grapes, syrah, pinotage, merlot and cabernet sauvignon found in these regions.