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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jack Hibberd & Kim Maxwell

The South African wine industry has moved en masse to protect its reputation as a wine-producing nation after the Sauvignon Blanc scandal. It has also revealed that a testing and detection programme will be in operation by January. The local wine industry has known for some time about the global practice of adding flavouring to wine,' commented Dr Jakob Deist, chairman of the management committee of the SA Wine & Spirit Board. Although they cause no harm to consumers, they are patently unethical. The development of detection programme of this nature is an extremely sophisticated process, and after two years of intensive data, our partners in the programme Winetech is confident it has reached the point of finalising the system,' he said. Elsewhere on the Cape, numerous producers - such as Simonsig, Stellenbosch Vineyards and Distell - have had lawyers draw up affidavits, making it a criminal offence for signatories to add illegal flavourings. We have requested and obtained from our chief winemaker an affidavit that no such practices have been performed in our business,' said Hermann Bhmer. Distell managing director Jan Scannell also said he had received personal assurances from every cellar master in the group that the practice had not occurred. He also hit out at Michael Fridjhon's statement that South Africa was too far north to make world-class Sauvignon Blanc: If latitude were the only measure, not only would all of South Africa be ruled out, but so would the whole of mainland Australia, and a large portion of New Zealand's North Island. Individual terroir and cultivation practices play a crucial role in determining flavour profile.' Producers currently requesting affidavits include Die Krans, Graham Beck Wines, Leavened, Klein Constantia, Heidelberg and numerous others. Illegal flavourants aren't what will kill the wine industry; the media will do it unless we send out these affidavits,' said Peter Malan of Simonsig. Mike Paul, managing director of Western Wines, said he had also received assurances that his suppliers were not involved, although he added that he felt action could have been taken sooner by the industry bodies. In a way, Michael Fridjhon has done the industry a favour in highlighting the problem,' he said. Charles Back said he was bitterly disappointed' at the allegations. People can't be accused of things without the whole industry being held to ransom. I'm not saying its not happening, just that it's not in the spirit of what we are trying to achieve. But South Africans do these strange things. We get our cricketers mixed up with Hansie Cronje, the rugby mixed up with military-style camps, and now they're trying to trash the wine industry.'