Paying Your Dues for KWV Mentors

Growing up with one parent employed by the KWV, I can attest that visitors to this auspicious vinous institution do not easily leave the joint empty-handed. KWV hospitality has always been legendary, whether you were hanging out with the Board at a formal lunch or attending one of the riotous product launches organised by the KWV PR department.

I found myself the subject of said hospitality last week when myself and Portuguese wine expert Joaquim Sá presented a tasting of wines from the Land of the Pickled Sardine at Laborie, KWV’s handy little historical farm across the road from the La Concorde head-office. KWV wine maker Johann Fourie had organised the tasting, and a token of appreciation for my and Joaquim’s modest contribution came in the form of two cases of wine made by Johann and his team under the KWV label.

The majority of the wines in my pack was chosen from the much-vaunted Mentors range, which really is a bit of alright. These wines wear more medals than an African warlord, having swept the boards at everything smelling of a wine competition. And before reception of the largesse, I had already been enchanted by two of the wines in the Mentors range, namely the Chardonnay and the Grenache Blanc.


Both were in my collection, Grenache Blanc from the 2011 vintage and the Chardonnay from 2013.

The philosophy behind the KWV Mentors is quite simple to click. The brand represents the best the KWV can make, with each specific variety selected from regions where the cellar masters deem them to give optimum expression. Grenache Blanc from Paarl, Chardonnay from Elgin.

Grenache Blanc is clean as a whistle with a sabre-like thrust of steel and green apple. Yet it opens up in the palate to a broad splice of white flowers, pear and kumquat, making it a really pleasant little glass of cold white wine on any day that needs it.

Chardonnay? Hello baby. Pan-roasted hazelnut with a boost of citrus of the grapefruit-kind. Long and plush, but with a tarty freshness singing “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Tackling my new Mentors donation after a brief temptation to donate them to the Salvation Army, I furthered my education on the range.

And all I can say is, man, what a Sémillon.

A bunch of Sémillon.
A bunch of Sémillon.

I’ve always liked Sémillon for its ability to flesh out the kidney stone-inducing nature of Sauvignon Blanc, but on its own I have found it rather overworked. The botrytis back-blend, as perfected in the Sémillons of Australia’s Hunter Valley, is okay for a glass or so, but quickly makes the stuff taste more like wallaby snot than wine. Here in South African many examples are just too overworked becoming tear-inducing with heavy green weight.

When cornered by Johann’s KWV wine making colleague Izele van Blerk into voicing an opinion on the Mentors Sémillon, I could only muster that it tastes like, well, wine.

Clean as a whistle. Wet, as C Louis Leipoldt liked to describe a good wine. Cool, life-affirming and full of joyful fun to drink.

Mentors Sémillon 2013 pulls its fruit from Darling. There is a 20% portion of wood comprising new and up to fourth-fill.

A modest eight-week period of lees contact is key. Sémillon throws a mean pile of lees, and too much contact draws a heady, excessive draft of obtrusively flabby flavour into the wine.

Not in the Mentors. Here, Sémillon is a gushing, persistent glass of unhindered wine. Think of a crystal clear mountain stream, fast-flowing with wild-run brown trout waiting among the round river pebbles which you can hear clicking and clacking. A gorgeous wine, which will never let you leave empty-handed.

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