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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #140 (article first published : 2005-11-1)

What do the names KWV and Chivas Regal have in common? They are both brand names, for brandy and whisky respectively, that are widely recognised, that are, in the jargon of advertising people, winning brands.

Here’s some news about both of them. KWV, which started off life in Paarl 87 years ago as a homely wine farmers’ co-operative, is now a large and successful commercial company, and its internationally known brandy has been, well, re-branded in new bottle label colours of black, gold and cream.

KWV 3-Year-Old Brandy appears in this new livery, and this coincides with a sales drive here and overseas. The company’s ranges of wines, KWV Cathedral Cellar, KWV Reserve, KWV Roodeberg and KWV Classic will also be appearing in the new packaging.

KWV is a very big wine producer, with exports to many parts of the world.

As for Chivas Regal, this is probably the most distinguished name in Scotch whiskies, the kind of drink that experts drool over. The latest adornment to the name is Chivas Regal 18-Year-Old Gold Signature Scotch, made from two rare malts from two old Highlands distilleries. They are aged in oak casks and then blended.

The Pernod Ricard liquor company, who own Chivas Regal, say: “The result is a spectacular marriage of dried fruits, spice and toffee on the nose, with a velvety dark chocolate palate that shows elegant floral notes and a wisp of sweet mellow smokiness”. I have tried it and it is very good.

You have to pay of course, about R650 a bottle.

***** **** ****

My friend Tim Hammond, who is the honorary consul in Durban for Chile, has shown me a letter from Jorge Heine which appeared recently in the Financial Times of London. Jorge Heine is Chile’s ambassador to India and he will be remembered here as a former Chilean ambassador in South Africa. He has drawn attention to a “new yet old” wine which has flourished in Chile in the past ten years.

The grape variety is carmenere. The name derives from the vivid crimson (carmine) colour of the wine. Jorge Heine says this grape was grown widely in Bordeaux in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but was virtually wiped out by phylloxera, an insect which damages vines, in the 1860s (it now plays a minor role in the French wine industry}. One hundred and forty years later it was re-discovered in Chile, where it had been planted in the1850s and subsequently confused with merlot (the two varieties were generally grown together). In 1994 wine farmers were able to separate the carmenere from the merlot and make it into what is now widely regarded as Chile’s flagship wine. The country now has six thousand hectares under these vines. The wine is apparently less heavy than most other reds.

An interesting story. I understand that the Chilean wine growing season is particularly well suited to carmenere, which ripens later than merlot and can be a problem in colder countries. An opportunity here, maybe, for some enterprising South African wine farmers? – Michael Green




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