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South Africa Red Bordeaux Varietal over £10

The winner was originally a co-operative established in 1918 to help stabilize South Africa's wine industry...

KWV The Mentors Orchestra 2008

One of the Cape’s largest wine and brandy producers, KWV, originally a co-operative, was established in 1918 to help stabilize South Africa’s wine industry after several outbreaks of Phylloxera. Back then, quantity was the imperative; these days quality is the name of the game and KWV’s The Mentors range, which made its debut in 2007, certainly raises the bar.

So-called because grapes have been “mentored” through a multi-stage selection process, Australian Chief Winemaker Richard Rowe (ex Evans & Tate and Leasingham) says, “we’ve restructured our wine-making team, allowing the winemakers to spend a lot more time in the vineyards.”

Given that KWV crushes about 11,000 tons from several regions, it’s no small commitment of time but it does mean that fruit quality across KWV’s brands is optimised across variety, region and vintage. Going forward, Rowe aims to produce wines from a single district or ward, even single vineyard, depending on merit.

For The Mentors Orchestra 2008, each of its five varieties (Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec) underwent bunch and berry selection in the vineyard (at verasion, then at harvest). At the winery, grapes were sorted again and, after fermentation, only the best wines were earmarked for this wine and spent 12 months in new French oak.

The best of the best were then selected for what Rowe describes as “an exhaustive process of blending then ranking blind, until we come up with the right composition.” The Rolls Royce treatment concluded with 6 months further ageing in barrel to marry the blend.

Written by Sarah Ahmed

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