Tom Jones of the Whalley Wine Shop details his favourite South African wine.
South Africa is one of the world’s most dynamic and exciting producers of wine.
Covid-19 has bought the world to a bit of a standstill, but countries across the globe are reacting in different fashions. The South African government, for example, has decided to ban the sale of alcohol in an attempt to stop social drinking and reduce alcohol-related hospital admissions.
It’s unclear whether this has worked, but it’s had a devastating effect on the South African wine industry. Not only have domestic sales severely reduced but the government has also banned the export of wine.
This got me thinking about the South African wine industry’s history and, in particular, the producer KWV who we’ve recently started working with again.
KWV was founded as a winemaking co-operative in 1918. The initials represent the “Koöperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Suid-Afrika”, which is Afrikaans for “Co-operative Winemakers Union’ of South Africa”. Over time, KWV virtually became the government arm controlling the production of South African grapes with a focus on quantity, not quality.
In 1990, when apartheid ended, KWV’s control over the industry lifted and in 1997 KWV became a private company. At this point, South Africa was seen as producing large quantities of reliable but cheap wine without much innovation. Things began to change with a new generation who began to experiment and get enthused about what wines could be produced from this fascinating country with its varied soils and climate.
Now, 30 years later, South Africa is one of the world’s most dynamic and exciting producers of wine.
KWV has also gone along for the ride. Now privately owned, it is distributed in the UK by a company keenly focused on working with brands that are sustainable, ethically produced and with excellent environmental credentials. Last February we tasted the range on offer in the UK and were delighted by their quality. We now stock several and they provide a great example of the quality that is on offer from South Africa in general, but also how a government behemoth has been able to emerge as a high quality wine producer .
KWV Vinecrafter Chenin Blanc and Merlot – Western cape, South Africa, 2019, 13/14%. £7.49 or 2 for £13.
This great pair of ‘house wines’ offer up exactly what you want at this level, lovely balanced fruit, no oak, clean, fresh and modern. Cracking value, so we have a ‘Quaffable Case’ which is 12 mixed bottles for just £74.99.
KWV Mentors Chenin Blanc – Paarl, South Africa, 2018, 14%. £15.99
A serious Chenin Blanc. Fermented in oak barrels, then aged in oak for nine months. The palate shows a lovely golden colour, a rich mouth filling texture and big ripe fruit flavour including mango and peach. A rich white with great texture and one of my wife’s favourites!
KWV Mentors Petit Verdot – Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2017, 14%. £15.99.
Petit Verdot is one of the original ‘Bordeaux grapes’ and can be tricky to get right. KWV have nailed this. Intense and concentrated, the wine shows lovely bright fruit notes of black cherry, cranberry and violet, but backed up with more savoury notes of black olive and cocoa. 18 months in oak barrels gives the wine a lovely rounded texture and a big full bodied finish. Great for fans of big, rich, full bodied reds and perfect with a slow cooked roast beef.
Laborie Blanc de Blanc Method Cap Classique – Western Cape, South Africa, 2014, 12%. £14.99
Method Cap Classique is South Africa’s version of Champagne. Made in the same traditional method this wine is astonishingly good value. It’s 100 per cent Chardonnay with an excellent balance between clean fruit, creamy texture and fizz. Lovely citrus and fresh apple notes balanced by hints of toasted brioche and hazelnut from 36 months aging on its lees.
We’ve also bought in a few more of the KWV Mentors range including the VERY limited edition Petit Sirah which is the second limited release. Just 1,000 numbered bottles for the world and 24 ended up in Whalley!