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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2003-11-3)

Kumala is not a name that is well known in South Africa but it is one of the great success stories of the country’s export wine industry.

Kumala is produced by Western Wines SA of Stellenbosch, an off-shoot of Western Wines of Telford in Shropshire, England. Over the past few years Western Wines have built up a massive export market for their range of wines bearing this fashionably ethnic name. About two million 12-bottle cases of Kumala wines are now sold every year in Europe and North America. It is the biggest selling South African wine in Britain, and it is ironic that it is virtually unknown in its home country.

That situation has now been remedied with the entry of Kumala on the domestic market. James Reid, operations director of Western Wines in South Africa, says: “Kumala took off like a rocket in the United Kingdom. We focused on the export market first. We reached the point when we asked how South African we were if our brands were not available locally. To enhance the credibility of the brand we must grow its strength at home”.

To do this they are concentrating initially on the restaurant and hotel trade and on specialist wine stores. Kumala wines are in the medium to upper price bracket, R45 to R95 a bottle. I have had the opportunity of trying two of them and they are very attractive. The Kumala Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 is dark in colour, with blackberry and spice aromas and flavours, and with a lingering aftertaste. It was matured in oak for six months. Like many South African reds these days, it is made for early consumption, and it is eminently drinkable now but will probably improve after two years or more of bottle maturation. Alcohol content is 13,5 percent. The recommended retail price is R55.

The Kumala Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2003 is a crisp and not too heavy white wine (12 percent alcohol), with the characteristics typical of this cultivar: a flinty, grassy aroma, and the taste of green figs and asparagus. A rather distinguished example of sauvignon blanc. Price: R45.

Kumala wines come in tall, elegant black bottles with restrained, dignified labels. Other Kumala wines now on the South African market are the Reserve Chardonnay 2003 (R45), Journey’s End Chardonnay 2001 (R95), Journey’s End Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (R55) and Reserve Shiraz 2003 (R55). – Michael Green




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