KWV is more famed for brandy than wine production but it was 6 wines, rather than the customary 4, that were showcased at the Vineyard Hotel tonight. The tasting was held on the back lawn, instead of indoors as for the Italian wines last week, and much better for it with the added space for guests. For those who don’t know, KVW was formed in 1918 – interestingly, the same year that Nelson Mandela was born – as a co-operative (the ‘Ko-operatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika Beperk’, Afrikaans for ‘Co-operative Winegrowers’ Association’, colloquially known as KWV) to regulate and stabilise the industry. Some 90 years later and the company is one of the 5 largest wine, brandy and spirit producers in South Africa. Based in Paarl, more than 100 products are sold in over 100 countries, including its KWV brandies and international brands such as Roodeberg, Cathedral Cellar, Laboorie and KWV Lifestyle.
James, from KVW, brought wines from the flagship The Mentors range for tasting: 2 whites and 4 reds. Most grapes are sourced from the Darling area, one that I have yet to explore, and so I was excited to sample. The Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc were pale yellow straw in colour with a distinct green tinge, much more so than the white wines I have tasted from the Hermanus and Elgin regions recently. The Sauvignon Blanc was fresh and lively, with big forward herbaceous notes, which could easily have been a 2016 rather than 2011 vintage. The Chenin Blanc was the weakest wine of the evening for me. It was light on the nose and palate and with insufficient complexity for my taste.
The red wines were much more preferred and interesting than the whites. The Pinotage, like the Chenin Blanc, was not one of the best I have tasted. It was a pleasant fruity and spicy plum on the nose, dry on the palate, but didn’t make me want to drink more. By comparison, it was a treat to taste the Petit Verdot. This rare cultivar is commonly used as a minor component in Bordeaux blends but rarely made into a single variety wine, due to its powerful flavours and heavy tannins. It is grown in under 1% of total vineyard area in South Africa. I had tasted only once before previously, at Anura vineyards. The Petit Verdot was purple red in colour and easily recognisable as a Bordeaux grape on the nose – dark mulberry and earthy, oak aromas predominated – that fed though to lingering flavours on the palate.
The Orchestra and Canvas, classic Cabernet Sauvignon-led Bordeaux and Shiraz-led Rhone blends, respectively, were as layered and complex as expected. It was good to taste blends of older vintages than most sold or included for tasting. The ageing showed in more rounded tannins and a better balance between fruitiness and acidity. Neither wine was too aggressive on the palate and I preferred the older Canvas, made up of no fewer than 7 cultivars. Earthy, leather, dry cedar and oaky aromas mingled with smoky, spicy dark plum fruits on the nose for a truly enjoyable wine.
It was a treat to taste such an interesting and broad range of wines from KWV. I am sure it will not be long until I visit the company in Paarl, for brandy tasting too …..
2011 The Mentors Sauvignon Blanc – R180
2013 The Mentors Chenin Blanc – R180
2014 The Mentors Pinotage – R250
2011 The Mentors Petit Verdot – R250
2010 The Mentors Orchestra (47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 17% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec) – R250
2008 The Mentors Canvas (71% Shiraz, 15% Grenache, 5% Carignan, 4% Mouvèdre, 2% Tempranillo, 2% Cinsault, 1% Viognier) – R250