Teams of Wine & Spirit Board inspectors are paying unannounced visits to Cape Sauvignon Blanc producers to take samples of grape juice from that varietal for testing to ensure that flavourants are not added to wines during the present harvest.

An extensive testing programme covering the entire Cape winelands, from garagistes to large corporations was undertaken by the W&SB to stamp out any possible use of illegal substances, said Dr Jakob Diest, management committee chairman of the W&SB.

A wide number of wines from each of the regions throughout the Cape have been tested and a flavour profile for region has been drawn up, taking into account the various climates found in each region. These results are now available and will form the backbone of testing for the samples taken during this harvest.

Though not posing any health hazards, serious damage has been done to the image of the South African wine industry following claims of flavourants being added to yet unnamed Sauvignon Blancs at the end of last year.

The South African Wine & Brandy Company, whose research arm sponsored the research project, said the findings would be available to wine producing members of the EU to assist them with their efforts to eradicate any use of flavourants in their countries.

Deist said it was essential to monitor all levels of producers to send out the message to any potentially errant winemakers that illegal practices would not be tolerated. 

If irregularities were uncovered, forensic audits would follow and if illegal substances were found, criminal proceedings would be implemented.