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A drink with… Marc Kent, winemaker

Marc Kent trained to be a winemaker at Elsenburg Agricultural College in South Africa’s Western Cape. He graduated in 1994, the dawn of the post-apartheid era, and joined Boekenhoutskloof in Franschhoek. Driving its transformation from neglected farm to Cape superstar, he is now managing partner and technical director at the winery. Since 2017 he has also been making wine in Portugal with Rita Marques of Conceito. They launched Companhia de Vinhos Invencível in Casais do Douro in 2020.

South Africa has an Old Vine Project, but the Douro has much more old vine material. It’s wonderful stumbling across these utterly neglected old vineyards with tiny yields. You can make stunning wines.’

‘There’s a place in Cape Town for piri piri chicken, Dias Tavern. We call it the Portuguese Embassy. Lots of wine guys hang out there, glugging a bottle of Casal Garcia with their chicken. The world needs to wake up to Vinho Verde. I just want to glug gallons of it in summer.’

‘I always considered myself a better red winemaker. Syrah is the most forgiving grape.’

‘Post-apartheid, my generation could work abroad. I missed out, but in 2017 – late in my life – I decided to work in someone else’s cellar, with Rita Marques at Conceito. It’s been difficult… I’ve never taken easily to being told what to do. Luckily, I’m working in a great cellar with fantastic grapes.’

‘All of a sudden, whether in Oslo or New York wine bars, everyone wants a 10.5% alcohol red wine – whether it’s Cinsault, Trousseau or whatever. Our alcohols are coming down at Boekenhoutskloof, but it was never my thing. I like big ripe wines, though I did ask myself whether I was doing it all wrong! But you realise people buy into the Boekenhoutskloof style for a reason.

‘I love people’s energy in the Douro. Like South Africans, they have a lust for life and love of the sun. No one’s going to die of stress!’

‘At Boekenhoutskloof, my fixation is extraction. Douro old field blend tannins come so naturally. More tannin from less ripe grapes. Different varieties, different tannins. South Africa never planted field blends. Picking varieties at different ripeness gives a spectrum of flavours, tannin maturity and complexity. It’s cool to work with such a broad palette.’

‘When I fell in love with the Douro, starting Companhia de Vinhos Invencível with Rita in 2020 was an opportunity to invest my own money doing something I really wanted, not just paying bills.’

‘Invincible Red is my style – rustic, juicy, with nice tannins, palate weight and length. I love the Cima Corgo around Casais do Douro. We get Christmas pudding flavours, spice and generosity without being heavy or Porty.’

‘There are some very, very smart winemakers in Portugal taking old vine fruit and adapting traditional techniques to suit a modern palate.’

‘Good white winemakers are very good technicians and look after wines better in the cellar. I admire how Rita works with her top whites. It’s very, very difficult to get whites at that quality level. She studied in Bordeaux and worked in New Zealand and all over the place, picking up on the best of everything.’

‘I don’t know if I am a salesman, winemaker or what, but I love developing brands. It’s not about Marc Kent wines or 100-point wines. I like value propositions at all price points.’

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