Some things never age

Tuesday, 11 June, 2013
Judy Brower -
How many South African wineries can be classified as classics?  I would say that Waterford Estate is certainly well on its way...
The deluge we have been experiencing in the winelands gave us a short reprieve for the Waterford tasting of their Chardonnay & Cabs through the years, followed by a rare tasting of their top-end Jem wines from 2005, 2007 and 2009.

Kevin Arnold has spent many years learning and crafting his wine-making and marketing skills, starting off after completing his wine-making studies by visiting Germany, France and Californian wineries and learning from the best on how to approach wine-making.  This mentorship and experience has left a lasting impression with him and his approach to quality and style is evident in the wines, the winery and the attitude to viticulture.

"Less is more" is one of Kevin's favourite adages and just his approach to making The Jem, which does not always appear every year is testament to this approach.  Losing R2.3m on a year where The Jem does not make it, is a big commitment to quality.
"Respect the soil, and not too much time in the oak".  These are wise words from someone who started off working at Delheim, getting to know the soils of the Simonsberg. His first experience of the Helderberg soils was a visit in 1979 with Spatz Sperling and already then was aware of the importance of planting the right varieties in the right soil and letting nature do the rest.

We were taken through the Waterford Chardonnays from 2008 to 2012, and it was incredibly difficult to pick up which was the older wine.  Each one still crisp and fresh.
The Waterford Wines have not had any acidification - no acids added - since 2004, which is clear that their intention to let nature takes its course and let the soil and grape speak for itself is for real.
No malolactic fermentation makes the wines fresher - and, for me, not being a Chardonnay fan, was wonderful as I really could enjoy the Chardonnay for what it is. 

Mark le Roux took over the main wine-making role from Francois Haasbroek earlier this year and although the daily grind of bottling interfered slightly with the tasting, his passion and attention to detail was clear. 
One of the areas they are reviewing is their approach to wood and barrels. They are working towards using much bigger barrels of older oak - 500l.  This brings new challenges as the toasting and effect of these barrels is again different. A winemaker's job is never dull.

Mark also gets to experiment outside of their classic wine range with their Library Collection, which provides Mark and Kevin with a palette which tantalises the palate - trying different blends and styles.

Waterford Estate is one of the few top end wineries that manages to sell 85% of their wines in South Africa. They sell only to on-consumption and have made a great impact with lodges and hotels. As Kevin says, you have to sell bed-nights first and then you can sell a bottle of wine.  They have been very effective in their marketing, reaching tour operators before they get to South Africa, ensuring that they are regularly full with smallish tour groups.

Kevin has just extended their tourism offering with a "Walking Tour" through the vineyards with him.  What could be better than walking through the Helderberg mountain vineyards, learning about the flora and fauna and then drinking an ice-cold glass of wine with Kevin in the vineyards, with some delicious cheese and baguettes...?

Go and experience the classics - Kevin and Waterford Estate.

Judy Brower

Judy has been running alongside her hubby Kevin Kidson since 1996. She takes photos, attends functions, writes occasionally, sells services, is Mrs HR at the company, cooks yummy lunches from time to time and generally is the glue at