Wines from a large South African co-operative and a boutique group in Washington state in the United States feature this week.
KWV pioneered co-operative winegrowing in South Africa in 1918, the year Nelson Mandela was born. At the time the industry was young and struggling.
Since the early 1990s when South Africa opened to the world after the end of apartheid, KWV has evolved into a global producer with sales in more than 100 countries.
They source grapes from the country’s best regions and KWV’s web site notes that these grapes come “from the world’s oldest earth”.
KWV boasts one of the largest cellars in the world, and its brands have collected more than 300 awards in the past year alone. They are also one of the leading black-empowerment companies in South Africa’s wine industry.
The main cellar is in Paarl on the west coast.
The KWV Mentors range is crafted from grapes from selected sites and receives special treatment in the vineyards and cellar. I tasted the 2012 Mentors chardonnay and it is fine wine that shows the best that South Africa has to offer.
The balance of oak and acid is finely tuned. This chardonnay was matured in a range of new and old French oak. The oak provides a creamy texture that marries perfectly with flavours of butterscotch and lemon.
The nose offers aromas of cashews and raw almonds, and I enjoyed the lingering finish.
The KWV Classic series are not as expensive or well crafted as the Mentors range but offer excellent value for money. The 2012 KWV Classic chardonnay reflects the cool vintage in 2012 with even temperatures that led to steady and measured ripening of the grapes.
This is a fresh chardonnay with aromas of white peach and pear with hints of minerality. It finishes well – crisp and zingy. Perfect for fried noodles or a range of seafood dishes. It is not a wine to cellar.
The KWV 2013 Classic cabernet sauvignon is also designed as a drink-now kind of wine. An easy-drinking combination of soft tannins and blackcurrant fruit.
My favourite was the 2013 Classic chenin blanc. This grape variety is widely planted in South Africa and quite frankly can produce some pretty dreary wines designed to sell at the bottom of the range in supermarkets.
But this chenin is delightful: Rich, ripe and zingy at the same time with profound depth of fruit character. Australian Richard Rowe, who became KWV’s chief winemaker in 2008, should be proud of this wine.
The Whispering Tree range of wines from Milbrandt Vineyard are from Washington state in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Washington is the state immediately north of Oregon on the border with Canada.
Butch and Jerry Milbrandt founded the brand in 1977 and currently manage 12 estates ranging over more than 2,300 acres. They built a winery in 2005 and started their own label two years later.
Winemaking is relatively new in this state but Washington now produces more wine than any other American state apart from California (which makes 90 per cent of all wine in the US).
Almost all wine is grown in Washington’s desert-like eastern region, in the Columbia River Basin.
The Cascade mountains effectively block most of the rain from the coast, which means the Columbia River Basin receives only about 200mm of rain a year, resulting in a continental climate. This produces wines with intense fruit flavours.
I tasted the Whispering Tree 2012 chardonnay, the 2010 cabernet sauvignon and 2010 merlot.
The chardonnay is full of acid zing and flavours at the grapefruit end of the spectrum with a nice touch of oak to add creaminess.
Both reds have classic ripe aromas and tight tannins from subtle use of oak that suggests they still need time to evolve and become more complex. These are good value wines with high concentration of flavours. The merlot has earthy tones and rich aromas like encountering freshly-baked fruit cake.
Though from different parts of the world, all these wines reflect their origins and demonstrate the beauty and riches in the global world of wine.
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