Part 3 of Memoirs of Cape Wine Import

Insight Magazine continues to follow two young female entrepreneurs, starting a wine import from scratch during one of the most challenging times in modern history.

Written by: Carina Elise Godou and Isabella Hedemark

21.01.2021

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Photo: Philip Isrenn 

Part three of their story, with a special wine lesson by the sommelier Isabella Hedemark from Urban Substans.

We didn’t choose the wine business, it chose us!

Some of the first bottles Mia bought at Backsberg.

The Backsberg Pinotage rosé has, for many reasons, become to be known as our flagship wine. Not only because it’s affordable and has received exclusively great reviews, or due to the winery’s eco-friendly and ethical production. This bottle is in fact the reason why we established our wine import company.

After consuming exclusively this wine during her first stay in Cape Town, Mia and her fellow students agreed that this was definitely not your average rosé. I was never in doubt when she called me and explained this, as I have learned to trust her recommendations on quality. I thought this all-year rosé would be perfect for the Norwegian market, with its steady increase in rosé consumption.

We initially wondered if we should convince an existing importer to include it in their portfolio, but quickly decided to start our own wine journey instead.

Cape Wine Import AS was born in January 2020, one rosé wine tall and 2,000 bottles heavy.

Opening Doors

CWI delivered wine to a charity event at Ling Ling in Oslo.

When I first received the Backsberg Pinotage rosé, I was completely put at ease; this had to be a success. We arranged a launch party and invited our supporters consisting of friends, family and potential business partners. Getting reviews on professional wine blogs and hosting events with our wine on the menu became important parts of our strategy.

Giving Back

We will be throwing a charity brunch this spring, giving back to the land where we harvest our business. The fundraiser is for Community Conservation Fund Africa (CCFA), and we will be raising money through an auction with donated items from PH Design and Mantis Collection Hotels among others. Simultaneously consuming world-class rosé, of course.

Ethical and Eco-smart Wine

It is both easy and expected in 2021 to say that your business takes social responsibility, but there is a whole other aspect to actively pursue such activities.

Lesson #3 to Aspiring Wine Importers: 
Be the change you want to see in the wine industry. If everyone waited for someone else to do it, there would be no innovation.

Taste aside, there are other reasons why we want to represent the Backsberg Winery. We really wouldn’t be the faces of just any producer without knowing their values, especially as modern slavery and child labor are still a problem in South Africa.

Backsberg takes social responsibility, and they are multi-accredited for their ethical production. They are offering housing to their current and previous employees, sponsoring education to those in need and financing pre-school teachers’ salaries. They benefit our planet too! Over 10% of the farm’s land has been set aside for the conservation of indigenous fauna and flora. In addition, in 2006, Backsberg became South Africa’s first certified carbon neutral winery. Forget about ecological certifications—carbon neutral wine is arguably way more sustainable.

When our first shipment arrived in Oslo.

Did you know many wineries, like Backsberg, actually produce ecologically—they’re just not certified? An ecological certification is pricey, which the customer obviously pays for, and it removes the possibility to use chemical aids at all. The problem occurs when the wrath of nature hits, and the wine ranks can’t be saved. This might result in wastage of grapes, or even a bad vintage. Yikes! Carbon neutral production instead focuses on carbon offset and green energy, and their net carbon dioxide emissions must be zero.

Even as a box fresh importer, our inbox is filled with requests from wine producers all over the world begging us to consider their products. Every clever producer wants to export to Norway due to the world’s largest buyer: The Wine Monopoly. This puts us, and our competitors, in a unique position where we can set demands. Why would we collaborate with producers that don’t contribute in a positive way?

We hope that other importers will follow us on this point, and apply pressure for a change in a more sustainable production that appreciates both the planet and the hard-working farmers and their families.

Some Norwegian reviews: 

Det Gode Vinliv 

Vinhøna 

Vin og Vegetar

Fifty Shades of Pink!
And 3 Ways to Make Rosé Wine

Photo: Urban Substans, Isabella Hedemark 

Sommelier, Isabella Hedemark, Urban Substans  

Did you think a rosé wine’s colour defines its taste? I often hear people say they only like rosé wines with a light pink hue. Oh, are they missing out a lot of fun! Light colour does not mean light in style and complexity. Here’s why you should know a bit about how rosé wine is made:

Rosé wine can vary in style from light to heavy depending on the type of grape or grapes used and the production method. Knowing how will make you love this pink stuff even more.

Maceration

Since the red colour lies in the grape’s skin, the freshly pressed juice will be left in contact with the grape’s skins for a limited amount of time. This process is called maceration. While red wine will ferment in contact with the skins from typically six hours to several weeks or even months, a rosé wine will touch red grape skins for around 2–20 hours. The longer the maceration, the darker shade of pink. Maceration is the most used method to produce quality rosé wine.

Saignée or “Bleeding”

The French call it bleeding, when some of the pink juice is bled off from the red wine under maceration and put in a separate tank to make rosé wine. The purpose of bleeding off the juice is to concentrate the red wine, as the juice-to-skins ratio becomes higher. Saignée rosé wine is in other words is a by-product of the red wine production and is common in regions that make fine red wines such as Rioja, Toscana, Loire and Napa. Saignée rosés are quite rare as 10 % or less of the winery’s production is rosé, and they are likely to be richer in style.

Blending

White + red = pink, right? This method is illegal in most of the EU and an absolute no-no for most winemakers. But the liberal vinification rules in many New World countries, as well in the lowest French classification “Vin de France” allows the practice of blending white and red wine after fermentation. It is a cheap way of making rosé wine, so watch out. There is one major exception: Champagne, where blending is actually the preferred method of making rosé Champagne, and the single reason why they also make red wine in Champagne.

Great Red Wine Grapes Make Great Rosé

A grape with thick skin, high level of tannin and acidity can give a complex and rich rosé even if the colour is pale pink. The shade only tells something about how long maceration time the juice has had, so don’t judge a rosé by its looks!

Nearly any red wine grape (from Sangiovese to Cabernet Sauvignon) can be used to make rosé wine. Some appellations also allow the blending in of white grapes. Provence rosé is almost always a blend of two or more grape varieties, and the particular varieties each bring something different to the wine.

A deeply coloured Italian Nebbiolo rosé or “rosato” will offer cherry, strawberry, and orange zest flavors, while a pale coloured Grenache rosé from Provence in France will taste of melon, strawberry, and lemonade.

South Africa’s indigenous grape Pinotage makes charming rosé wines, often with a touch of Provénce. The reason is quite simple; Piontage’s parental grape Cinsault is a grape variety commonly used in Provénce rosé blends.

Photo: Backsberg Estate Cellars

Backsberg Pinotage Rosé 2019 is a delightful example of a South African rosé wine with an international appeal, opening up people’s rosé wine horizon. Bright salmon pink. Fragrant bouquet of strawberry, orange zest and red cherries. Fresh and juicy palate of pink grapefruit, strawberries and mint with a long, salty aftertaste and zesty acidity. The production method? Maceration of course.

Pink Popularity

Pink wine is gaining popularity as a fabulous all-year-round wine. A delicious aperitif, but with its fresh acidity and light tannins it also pairs brilliantly with many different food dishes. •