April 9, 2009

In The Company of Wine People: brief notes from a tasting

By Andrew Barrow In Tasting Reports, Wine Notes

Isabel from the Company of Wine People

The lovely lady in the picture is Isabel, Brand Development Manager for the Company of Wine People who led us through a marvellous tasting on the summit of Bottelaryberg (I think). The Company of Wine People may not be familiar to you; their brands names though you are highly likely to recognise – Arniston Bay, Thandi, Kumkani, Welmoed and Versus.

Now Arniston Bay may well be one of those ubiquitous brands that clog the wine aisles; but actually the wines are not too bad. Look out for the Reserve bottling of the Sauvignon Blanc (fresh, crisp finish, touches of lychee, soft, upfront sweetness) and those offered in innovative pouches.
Sometime ago I received a sample of an Ariston Bay Chenin-Chardonnay in a pouch and, to my annoyance, neglected to write anything about it. It’s the packaging that offers the interesting story, but the wine itself was surprisingly drinkable for a mid-week slurp.

Developed at some cost by the Company of Wine People the pouch is a world first in terms of packaging.
The pouch offers an environmentally friendly solution to wine packaging, creating 80% less environmental impact from cradle to grave than the equivalent volume in glass bottles, 90% less waste and takes up less space in a landfill than two glass bottles. It is also 20 times lighter than a wine bottle and preserves the wine for up to a month once opened.

“We have worked hard to create a packaging solution to redefine the boundaries of sustainability in the wine industry and make people think differently about the cradle to grave lifecycle of wine”

They are available in Chenin/Chardonnay and Pinotage Rosé styles from branches of Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons priced at around a tenner for 1.5 litres.
Incidentally the Arniston Bay website offers a little downloadable book detailing recipes for Governer’s Trifle, Peri-Peri Chicken Mozambique Style, Tomato and Prawn Bredi, Egg Plant, Date and Cashew Nut Briyani and Chilled Butternut, Orange and Cumin Soup – all designed of course to complement one of their wines.

The Kumkani Range is a step up in price and interest. Kumkani is a word derived from the Xhosa word translated as ‘King’ – you have to practice the tongue click on word Xhosa; Isabel demonstrated and despite a few half-attempts we all spectacularly failed at replicating. Anyway the Kumkani range comprises single varietals, dual varietals, the Reflections range and award-winning single vineyard wines.

Particularly noteworthy is the stunning Kumkani Sauvignon Blanc Lanner Hill with grapes sourced from a single vineyard – Groenekloof in the Dorking region. A lovely slice of ‘green gooseberry’ intensity with a mineral, flinty complexity (listed by Majestic £11.99)
Great pleasure and hums of excitement – well you can’t say much with a mouthful of wine – greeted the Kumkani VVS 2005. This has stonkingly good complexity and superb balance/intensity coupled with a fascinating aroma from an unusal mix of grapes – Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdelho. There’s a touch of oak in their somewhere too.

“This unique wine is the first white wine blend in South Africa to have Verdelho as a blending component. All the components – 40% Viognier, 40% Verdelho and 20% Sauvignon Blanc – of this wine were fermented separately before blending. The Viognier and Verdelho fermented in 20% first fill, 40% second fill and 40% third fill 300-litre French oak barrels. Kept on fermentation lees for eight months, batonage two times a month. The Sauvignon Blanc component was fermented in stainless steel tanks. No wood treatment on this component, kept on fine lees for eight months.”

Our sample was the 2005 vintage, the initial release, so a little age development. Currently the 2007 is available but I’m still waiting details of UK stockists.
The Kumkani Cradle Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, proved to be a damn delicious, serious wine. Hefty tannins, so give it another year or so or bring on the Springbok! Rich and classy. The Kumkani blog suggests pairing with Rump of Beef Cooked Slowly in Red Wine and provides the recipe. As with the equally superb Kumkani Shiraz 2007 I’m lacking details of stockists or prices sadly.

Isabel is a fascinating person; shame we didn’t have time to chat longer. Prior to demonstrating her beautiful singing voice (in Xhosan too) she mentioned her work in promoting wine to the rising black middle class. Wealth divisions in South Africa may take many, many years to even out but the progress in just a few years has resulted in greater affluence for many – the ‘Black Diamonds’. Isabel is involved in township wine clubs for example… as I said, just one fascinating story I would have liked to explore further…

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Kumkani Lanner Hill Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Stockist: Majestic Price: £11.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Scribblings Rating – 92/100 [4 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Kumkani VVS, 2005, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
[More: Adegga / Snooth 2005 Snooth 2007]
Scribblings Rating – 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Kumkani Cradle Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
[More on Adegga / Snooth]
Scribblings Rating – 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

vineyard workers koopmanskloof
The photo above is of vineyard workers being trucked to their next picking assignment. Taken half-way up the hill on the Koopmanskloof estate, where we briefly halted to look at some ripened Chenin Blanc grapes.
  1. TheWinesleuth April 9, 2009

    That white blend sounds absolutely amazing! Let’s hope that we’ll be seeing some of that on our shores soon.
    I would be curious to try the wine in a pouch,I’ve tried tetra pak and cardboard, might just have to pick one up the next time I’m in Asda.

  2. Dylan April 12, 2009

    I know that you said after opening it preserves the wine up to a month, but what are the thoughts on aging the wine within these pouches?

  3. Andrew April 13, 2009

    Good question Dylan; I don’t think they have been around long enough for any extensive testing but I would expect that any long term aging would have an effect of some sort. But then you wouldn’t really age a Chenin-Chard blend of this price level for any great length of time.

  4. dionysus@cybersmart.co.za June 4, 2010

    Hi Andrew
    Our tasting group had the pleasure of tasting the Kumkani VVS, 2007 blind a couple of months back. Needless to say it was the highlight of the evening. Wonderfull balance, yet very complex.
    Groenekloof in the Dorking region…Groenkloof is in the Darling Region.
    Cheers from Sunny Cape Town


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