Smoky, velvety and bursting with fruit are not the normal reactions associated when drinking a South African red wine. But then KWV's Abraham Perold has not been designated a super-premium for nothing.

"Back in 1993, we thought why can't we produce a red that can compete with the old world premiums such as the Rothschild's but with a totally new world character," said KWV's chief cellarmaster Kosie Möller. The decision was made to focus on this market and has finally come to fruition in this limited edition launched in the UK last week.

Kosie Möller, KWV's chief cellarmaster spearheaded the production of Perold:"This is a wine of great personality and distinction that reflects the uniqueness of the soil and terroir from the vineyard".

"The vineyard is 550m above sea level, in a very picturesque area on the northeast-facing side of the mountain. This is why we decided to use the Afrikaan phrase, op die berg, on the label which means 'on top of the mountain'," explained Möller.

Building this ethereal image around the brand is KWV's attempt at justifying its difference among the other wines. There is no doubt it is a superior wine compared to its native competitors even as the country's red varietals finally find their true potential. But retailing at £60 a bottle in the UK (approximately $100 elsewhere in the world), this is a wine not for the financially faint-hearted. "One sip and the soul flies. The problem is that it may come crashing down in flames once the bill is presented," commented one wine critic.

However, KWV has thrown the gauntlet down and hopes others will follow. "What South Africa needs is 10 labels of this quality from various producers," said Möller. "We want more producers to start improving the quality of their production and wines."

He also said that when Perold launched in Canada last year, within "two days the whole supply had gone." Only 450 cases have been produced and KWV's UK distributor Edward Cavendish & Sons has only 50 cases. "Specialist wine buyers are very interested in Perold. It is a long-term investment for some, and we have sold a number of cases already," said Gary Procter, Edward Cavendish's managing director.

Möller believes the wine can lay for at least eight to ten years before "it is at its best" though KWV hopes to return to the Paarl vineyard for at least another 50 years. "South Africa has not had a bad vintage since 1977. We have more than enough sun and rain to produce more great wines in the future. Our climate is very conducive," he said.

Named after the man who introduced Pinotage to South Africa, Perold is a credit to the region's heritage and if the surgence in price for vintage Rioja in recent months is any indicator, even one bottle may be well worth the investment long-term.

Elliot Lane
Managing Editor

VINTAGE: 1996

ORIGIN: Paarl

CLIMATE: Cool, moderate temperatures.

VITICULTURE: Old vines trellised on the Perold system. The vineyard is situated on a slight northeast-facing slope, and the elevation of approximately 550m above sea level, ensures a long, slow ripening period. This contributes to the grapes having good fruit composition with rich colour.

VINIFICATION: The grapes were harvested at a ripeness of 26, 8 degrees B and fermented dry. They underwent six days extended maceration. The wine was matured for a total of 24 months in 300 litre barrels. American oak was used for the first 18 months and French oak was used for the last six months. The wine was bottle-matured for 15 months before its release.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTON: A premium Shiraz, with charm and accessibility, possessing rich aromas of toasted herbs, cloves and cracked black peppercorns, backed by sweet berry fruit. Best served at room temperature with red meat, especially roasts lamb, venison and mature cheese. Alcohol 14 vol %.