There was a time when drinking South African wine was considered at best inappropriate.
Like its sports teams, the South African wine industry was isolated because of apartheid and its system of institutionalised racial segregation.
Much has changed and South Africa is now without question one of the most exciting wine countries.
In those dark days the one producer you may have found on a UK supermarket shelf was KWV. The wines weren’t terribly exciting and for a long time KWV was synonymous with all that was wrong in South Africa.
But now, more than 25 years since the end of apartheid, KWV is producing some of the most interesting wines coming from the Cape.
KWV stands for Koöperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Suid-Afrika, which is Afrikaans for Co-operative Winemakers’ Union of South Africa. It’s easy to see why it’s known as KWV!
Founded in 1918, it began as a small co-operative aiming to stabilise and support a struggling wine industry.
It was given increasing powers to regulate and control much of the South African wine and brandy industry and it wasn’t until 1990 and the change in government that this control was lifted.
Among its many wines there are some that show the company’s willingness to innovate and experiment. Take KWV Classic Collection Grenache Blanc 2015, Western Cape (NISA £7.55). Grenache blanc is a grape more likely to be found in the south of France. It’s seldom seen as a single varietal. An enjoyable, pure, dry white. There’s a touch of peach, apple and citrus with a nice mouth feel, not overly complex but perfect for midweek drinking with grilled fish.
Moving up, the KWV’s Mentors range, which focuses on varietals from specific vineyards, has some seriously good wines. KWV Mentors Cabernet Franc 2013, Stellenbosch (Ocado £14.95, Wine Society £12.50) was aged for 18 months in 70 per cent new French oak barrels. There’s lots going on here with dark fruit and chocolate before layers of mouth-filling fruits and supple tannins on the palate. Pair with roast beef for a treat.
KWV Mentors Petit Verdot 2014, Stellenbosch (Ocado, slurp.co.uk £14.95) is also aged for 18 months in oak. It’s a deeply-coloured, concentrated red. Aromas of mocha, spices, violets and rich dark fruit are followed by mulberry, damson and more spice on the palate; smooth tannins and a long finish. Classy wine. Serve with game or beef.