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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Kim Maxwell

The South African wine industry has been hit by media allegations, including one from leading wine critic Michael Fridjhon, that rogue winemakers may have been adding synthetic flavourings - including essence of gooseberry, passion fruit and green pepper - to their Sauvignon Blancs. Responding to the allegations, SA Wine and Brandy Company chief executive, Dr Johan van Rooyen, said there is industry anger about potential renegades after a quick fix, who could damage the quality drive of Brand South Africa. Infruitec scientist Dr Johann Marais, whose research team is investigating the problem and will publish results in January, was quoted in the Sunday Herald as saying, It's fair to speculate that some people are adding illegal synthetic flavouring agents.' However, he told Harpers, he had only detected South African wines with high levels' of certain pyrazines. Everybody is quick to tell the press this means there are fake substances in wine. Yes, there is a possibility of illegal additions, but you can expect higher levels of pyrazines in wines from cooler areas. You will also see it in wines from New Zealand.' Van Rooyen says the issue is of international concern. We've collaborated for two years with other countries to develop tests to determine "typical" wine profiles, and detect those that fall outside parameters.' At this point there is no scientific proof,' said Sohpie Wagget at WOSA, but once it can be proven, it should be eradicated from the system and those guilty of such practice should be prosecuted.'