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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #204 (article first published : 2008-09-9)

One of South Africa’s major wine organisations, the KWV, is celebrating its ninetieth birthday this year, and in Durban it marked the occasion with a party for its friends and customers.

The KWV was established at Paarl in 1918 as a co-operative of wine farmers to avert a financial threat of over-production. Its full title is Ko-operatiewe Wijnbouwers-Vereniging, co-operative wine-growers’ association.

It prospered and grew as a producer of wines and spirits, but it remained a co-op owned by farmers until 1997, when it became a private company with shareholders. My own contact with it goes back more than fifty years, when I was friendly with its then public relations officer, Godfrey de Bruyn.

It prospered and grew as a producer of wines and spirits, but it remained a co-op owned by farmers until 1997, when it became a private company with shareholders. My own contact with it goes back more than fifty years, when I was friendly with its then public relations officer, Godfrey de Bruyn.

Today the KWV is a normal commercial concern and one of the biggest wine producers in the country. The Durban party to mark its anniversary included a film tracing its history, plus some cheerful and unusual food and drink: red wine cocktails, peppadew cocktails, KWV wines, seafood samoosas, Parma ham with strawberries and goat’s milk cheese, sushi, focaccia bread and pesto, rare roast beef, all very international.

The KWV is still a big exporter but most of its wines are available locally and they are of high quality. The flagship range is called Cathedral Cellar, after the KWV’s giant cellar at Paarl, and it includes cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinotage, shiraz, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. The reds retail at about R80 a bottle, the whites at about R65, reasonable prices for wines that are rated four to five stars in Platter’s Wine Guide.

The next range is called simply KWV and here the prices of the reds are about R50 and the whites about R35. Then there is an economy class named Roberts Rock (the name comes from a feature of the Paarl landscape) and these reds sell for not much more than R30 and the whites for a bit less than R30. And they are very pleasant.

And of course there is Roodeberg, the famous red blend made by the KWV for the past half century and still very popular at about R50 a bottle.

The KWV is a big brandy producer and its 20-year-old sells for about R350 a bottle, the l0-year-old for about R110 and the 5-year-old for about R80. There are also ports and sherries at about R50.

Paarl is only about 40 minutes’ drive from Cape Town, and the KWV premises are well worth a visit. There are tours, tastings, a coffee shop, a wine shop and a gift shop. The Cathedral Cellar has a high vaulted cellar and some of the world’s largest vats. A tasting of five KWV products costs R15, there is a wine and food tasting, and there is a 75-minute tour and tasting with a guide, cost R25. And if you are in the mood you can have four KWV brandies and four Belgian chocolates for R30. Have a non-tasting driver with you, though.

The KWV’s phone number is 021 807 3900. – Michael Green




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