Reliable old friends reveal fine balance

OVER A BARREL: The magnificent cathedral cellar at the KWV cellars
OVER A BARREL: The magnificent cathedral cellar at the KWV cellars

KWV is a household name once best known for its tight grip on the South African wine industry – and fine wines that South Africans could buy only if they travelled overseas or had a much-prized “allocation”.

With a past closely linked to South Africa’s history, the famed farmers’ co-op has reinvented itself in the democratic era as a company, now with 60% black ownership and a former trade unionist as chairman.

It’s also a global flag-bearer for South African wines – our top entry, at 35, in Drinks International magazine’s 2013 list of the world’s most admired wine brands.

So it’s fitting then that KWV’s Classic Collection brings together a range of red and white wines that could be considered representative of different cultivars, making a good introduction to what different grapes typically taste like.

They’re easy-drinking, accessible wines and well-priced at around R50-R70, making them a good choice for lining up some different varieties and deciding which you prefer. A recent tasting of some of the reds in the range highlighted the traits of shiraz v pinotage v merlot.

The merlot was soft and elegant, moving from blueberries on the nose to juiciness and subtle sweetness on the tongue, while the shiraz offered up typical pepperiness balanced with herb and berry notes.

Like all the flavours in these wines, nothing is overdone.

They’re about balance and showing off the best qualities of the particular grape.

When it comes to the pinotage, forget all those fashionable coffee-chocolate numbers and also forget the acetone-banana skin notes that switch so many people off the variety and give it a bad name.

This one is fruity with suggestions of woody-spiciness and dried herbs.

A typical, if not very exciting, pinotage.

These wines are like reliable friends that you can take anywhere and be sure that they’ll behave themselves, from the Sunday braai to picnic sundowners to dinner with the boss.

– a Vine Time, with Samantha Venter

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