Tag Archives: 2013

KWV Mentors Chardonnay 2013

TLDR: A definitive South African Chardonnay that MUST be experienced by any SA wine lover //
Quality: 18/20 //
Price: R175 – R220 (as of Sept 2016) //
Value: 4/5 //
Ponce factor: High //
Occasion: Sitting on your own, far away from anyone who might guilt you into sharing this //
Key words:  Batonnage, Triton Winemaker Awards//
Vivino rating //

Tasting notes:

This wine is not only the result of superbly selected Elgin fruit, but also impeccably executed winemaking. She spends 9 months in oak & 100 days on its lees, with regular batonnage. The result is yet ANOTHER Triton Express Winemaker’s Choice Diamond Award (The Mentors Chardonnay has garnered this award for two out of their last three vintages).
As for the wine itself…Aromas carry yellow apple, with subtle vanilla & hints of lees-inspired yeast.
Mouthfeel is full & creamy, with beautiful Seville oranges, apricots, vibrant lemon zest & an attractive hint of macadamia nuts (admittedly I needed some prompting to detect it, but now I can’t miss it).

To fill those awkward silences…

I am not going to drag you through another monologue on why the KWV’s Mentors range is so important to the South African wine scene, as I have already gushed like schoolgirl at a Bieber show over here.

Instead, I thought it worth talking a little bit about some of the stickers you’ll see on the bottle, as by and large stickers are little more than annoying eyesores devised to try and boost sales. There are, however, some stickers that actually mean something, and I will try to talk about these awards whenever they crop up.

And while I’m at it…

Why the Triton Diamond award is not just another sticker:

  1. The panel of judges is made up exclusively of winemakers. It is safe to say that a seasoned rugby player will better be able to appreciate watching the performance of a legend of the game, but may struggle to identify with the achievement of a world-class master ballet dancer. The same can be said of a wine lover who understands a little about the process of making wine; he or she is aware of all that could go wrong (or right!), and thus is better able to appreciate the performance that went into making the bottle that they are drinking.
    It is logical then to conclude that a competition judged almost exclusively by winemakers will truly produce winners who are masters at their craft.
  2. Only 10% of the entrants win prizes. There are wine awards where a “gold medal” is actually third place. A “double gold” would be second place, and a trophy award would be the actual winner. This is horribly misleading, and leads many a consumer to buy what they think is a gold medal winner (or silver…or bronze… because, hey, at least they’re on the podium, right?!) when it is nothing more than just a hair’s breadth above the average of all the wine’s that entered. By keeping the awards for only the top 10% of wines entered, one can ensure that anything carrying the Triton Express Diamond Award sticker is actually worth investing in.
  3. I have yet to buy a Triton Express Winemakers’ Choice Diamond Award wine that has left me disappointed.
    The practical application of this observation is that we can place a little more faith in a wine with the Triton Diamond Award sticker, than we might in, say a wine bearing an award like the Vitis Vinifera award. Or, in the same vein, the proud label of “Chucky’s Cheese’s Most Huggable Bargain Buy”.

    What is Batonnage?

    “100 days on its lees,” you say. “With regular batonage”, you add. Well, it all sounds great, unless you have no idea what batonnage is. If not, a beating at the hands of riot police.

    In short, Batonnage is just the process of regularly stirring up the dead yeast cells (the lees) that remain in a wine after fermentation, having settled to the bottom of the barrel, or tank.
    Obviously, in red wine this happens all the time, so it’s no big deal, but in white wine, it is a little more noteworthy. It was first performed in Burgundy France during the production of Chardonnay wines, where, instead of completely removing all traces of dead yeast cells, a winemaker would let the wine mature with the dead yeast cells, thereby adding a richness to the wine. KWV winemaker Johann Fourie’s decision to mature his Chardonnay sur lie (or on the lees) would have been to try and use these yeast cells to enrich the texture of the wine, producing a creamier mouthfeel, or buttery texture on the palate.

    “Okay,” you say, “But you need to focus. Tell us about Batonnage.” To which I say, “Fair Deuce.”
    Batonnage is quite simply the act of stirring up the lees in order to increase level of contact between wine and yeast and therefore increase the contribution that the yeast makes to the end result.

    One can overdo it, producing an unpleasant bready, yeasty result, but,as I may have hinted before, Johann Fourie knows a little about winemaking.



Raka Malbec 2013

TLDR: Do it for the education. Unless you don’t care. In which case, do it for the acidity. //
Quality: 15/20 //
Price: R130.00 (as of Sept 2016) //
Value:  2/5 //
Ponce factor: Moderate //
Occasion: A companion to Thursday’s Ostrich goulash//
Key words:  Cool climate, Acidity //

Vivino rating //

Tasting notes:

If one is expecting an inky purple, velvety Argentine-style Malbec, then you’ll be sorely disappointed, but if you’re prepared for a lighter, dryer, herbs & berries fest, then this guy won’t let you down.
Colour is a clear med intensity cherry-red, providing an apt visual cue for what’s to follow:
Tart red cherries with intense-but-clean acidity, holding glorious length&joined on the caboose by some slightly peppery rocket leaf herbal notes & oak spice.
As Jancis would say, “Average but distinguished”.

To fill those awkward silences…

TL;DR Cool climate wines retain more acidity while developing less sugar. Warm climate wines develop rapidly, which consumes acidity, and gives rise to lots of sugar (and also a high potential for alcohol).
Woo-hoo girls always drink warm climate wines.

Goldilocks hits the sauce

Remember that impertinent blonde forest-dwelling vandal-nymph who kept breaking-&-entering to find chairs, porridge & beds that fit her expectations, just so? The one who refused to tolerate too high, too low, too hot, too cold, too hard, or too soft? Well, it turns out that any decent winemaker has a bit of a Goldilocks inside them, waiting to bust out and make some truly bitching wine.
You see, come harvest time, every winemaker needs to decide when to pick the grapes that (s)he will use in their wine. Like with any fruit, pick it too early and it tastes highly acidic, green, astringent, and stalky. Pick it too late, and it tastes predominantly sweet – overly so – in fact, and it can present as nigh on fermented (not in the “yay-verily” sense of the word). So to pick it “just so” is essential if you value both sweetness and acidity. When a winemaker gets this right, the end result is a balanced wine that presents as neither acidic, nor sweet, but is usually ina state of alchemic-mystical-awesome that makes you want to keep drinking until you pass out. Or so I have heard from friends of mine.

In the plant world “fast metabolism” is bad…

When you’re a human trying not to be an orca, boosting your metabolism is the name of the game.

“Fast is good”, said the annoyingly trim betty, with buns of steel.

But when you’re a plant, the opposite is true. If you’re a grape trying to become an epically complex, balanced wine of renown, you want your metabolism to be as slow as possible.

But why?

Well mostly to allow the slow development of sugars, with minimal decline in organic acids (acids get used up during plant respiration).

But why?
Well, because…
1. a fast metabolism needs lots of food (think teenage waterpolo jock).
2. The need for food in a plant triggers rapid cell respiration, and the production of sugars to feed aforementioned waterpolo plant jock (depending on which analogy stuck with you most).
3. Rapid cell respiration consumes organic acids, leaving nothing left to balance all those newly produced sugars…
4. It also causes rapid fruit growth, diluting all the goodness that may be left, while also failing to leave time for other amazing chemicals to develop before all the organic acid is consumed like Cornish pasties on a Friday.

(If you want more detail, “get thee to a university”).

How does this help me to sound more poncey at dinner parties?

Well, if you remember all those hours ago when we were talking about Raka’s brightly acidic red fruit Malbec that was in no way a velvety, sweet, dense, black fruit Argentine-type Malbec? Well, the reason behind it all comes down to a glorious union between the awful botany and organic chemistry that we just dragged you through…

Cool cliamte = acidic & dry in style ; Warm climate = sweet, full & fleshy in style

Botrivier happens to have at its disposal a rather cool Atlantic-fed lagoon that brings cool breezes in over the land, reducing temperatures in the months prior to harvest.

Cool temperature slow down a grape’s metabolism, which means the ripening process takes longer, acidity is preserved, and sweetness levels are reduced.

Put yourself to the test:

Why not put your newfound organic acidity theory to the test:
1. Pick a grape variety.
2. Pick a vintage.
3. Buy two wines – one from a cooler region (Elgin, Hemel-en-aarde, Botrivier, Constantia) and one from a warmer region (Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Swartland, Darling), decant both, and see if you can tell which is why purely by focussing on sweetness and acidity


KWV Mentors Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

The Headlines: //

Colour is superbly dense. Sweet blueberry and maraschino cherries abound on the vanguard, complicated by some gloriously open oak aromas.
Palate is heavy with ripe fruit; mostly continued black maraschino cherries, with soft pepper finish and some truly grippy tannins. Acidity is moderate.
This could go beyond Thunderdome in two years’ time. But, hell, at R300 per bottle, I guess I’ll never know.

Quality: 15/20 //
Price: R270 – R300 (as of Sept 2016) //
Value: 1/5 //
Ponce factor: Moderate to High //
Occasion: Wine ponce festival //
Key words: Fruit selection, ripening //
Vivino rating //

To fill those awkward silences:

A little on the South African vintage of 2013

Humidity was an issue in 2013. Too high a moisture content in the air can facilitate the danger of rot in the vines. But harvesting too early can lead to stalky and green notes popping up in your wines. So what to do? Wait for drier conditions in which to harvest; giving your fruit time to ripen, but also increasing the chance of losing your crop to rot.
As it turns out, those winemakers who took the risk of waiting it out for drier conditions were rewarded with a superb harvest (especially among the red wines). With KWV having supreme access to awesome  fruit, they could pretty much do what they wanted. Which helps when trying to make wise fruit selection.

A few tidbits on the KWV Mentors range

For those not familiar with the Mentors Range, it is worth noting that the KWV group needs to be understood as a conglomerate of hugely disparate brands, some of which should be given global respect…as opposed to being diluted by Coca Cola. Mentors is one such label. It is a range of wines that has garnered more international awards than almost any other range of wines that our young democracy has tolerated. So, even though this wine is decent, it’s backstory is almost better than what’s in the bottle. Enough to elevate it to the point of being awesome.

But why? Well, for starters, as is the case with all Mentors wines, winemaker Johan Fourie has his pick of some of the finest grapes from pretty much any grape growing region in the country (thanks to KWV’s vast empire and unrivalled access to the country’s prime grape growing outfits). But secondly, Johan Fourie is not a rubbish winemaker. He spent years as a viticulturist, understanding the raw product, which gave him an advantage over those who skipped the agricultural grounding and went straight into the cellar. And then, more recently, he was awarded the Jan Smuts award at the 2015 Young Wine awards for both his Cabernet sauvignon, and his Shiraz.

And if that isn’t enough to keep you entertained, Jan Fourie makes some of the finest Chardonnays that this country has ever seen.
So…plenty to talk about, so long as your dinner guests are vaguely interested in wine. However, if they aren’t, and you still have nothing interesting to add on the topic of democracy, government spending, or indie rock, a sure winner is to play the “artisanal versus big corporate” card (which everyone loves, regardless of the industry), and expand on how KWV manage to be both a big corporate, and an artisanal winemaking outfit that garners international awards.