As featured in the last issue of Business Day WANTED: In the mid-1990s, KWV went from South Africa’s super co-operative to just another big wine company struggling for a share of the domestic and international wine and spirits market. Is it going to succeed, wonder industry observers? Well, if what’s in the bottle has got anything to do with it, it seems to be on the right track.
Take the Shiraz 2008 from flagship range KWV The Mentors. It’s a wine that impresses with clean, pure dark fruit as well as a note of pepper which is the trademark of the variety; there’s oak in evidence, too, but it’s astutely used and only adds to the drinking experience.
The secret behind the wine as far as Johan Fourie is concerned is the quality of the grapes he works with. These come from a single, high-altitude vineyard in Helshoogte. Stellenbosch and he says that his approach to vinification is as hands-off as possible.”We’re not trying to make either an Old World or a New World style but rather we want to let this particular site express itself,” he says. As a consequence, the wine is fermented naturally rather than inoculated with a commercial yeast.
What Fourie particular appreciates about the grapes from this Helshoogte vineyard is the tannin quality they facilitate in the end-wine, which he describes as “fine and powdery” as opposed to “angular”. He consequently doesn’t want to introduce excessive barrel-derived tannin, and his oaking regime is carefully thought out: 18 months in 85% French and 15% American, 70% new. “We give the wine lots of attention, but we don’t try to force it into being something it’s not”.
Fourie works under Richard Rowe, the experienced Australian winemaker appointed to head up KWV cellar operations in October 2008. “He brings a good international palate and I really enjoy the whole spin he puts on things,” notes the South African youngster. What would that spin be? “Friendlier, more modern wines. Everything we do is fruit-focussed,” he says. “Over-ripe, over-extracted, over-oaked is out”. In which case, The Mentors Shiraz 2008 is right on brief.
Total production was 180 cases; it is sold out from The KWV Wine Emporium in Paarl but look out for it in fine dining establishments around the country. The 2007 is still available at R160 a bottle from the Emporium.
Another top drop
Nitida Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Tasting notes can be fanciful but if ever the descriptor of ‘goosberries” really did apply, then it’s in the case of the Sauvignon Blanc 2010 from Durbanville winery Nitida. The variety is known for its acidity, and while the Nitida ’10 is certainly not short of this, it also has great palate weight making for a well balanced wine. Owner-winemaker Bernard Veller reckons that while overtly herbaceous examples of Sauvignon Blanc tend to win awards (and hence sell well), consumers actually prefer to drink wines that are more fruit driven. “It leaves me with an enormous dilemma when it comes to deciding on what stylistic direction to take,” he says. In the case of his ‘10, he’s got nothing to worry about as he’s made a very complete wine. Cost per bottle from the tasting room is R75. For more information, call 021 976 1467 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.