KWV Wine Emporium – A Food and Wine Pairing Experience
Since its inception in 1918, the KWV brand has been a figurehead of South African wine culture, a pioneer and an innovator for almost a century. KWV were one of the first to set up wine education and appreciation classes back in 1964, and they spearheaded the wine and food pairing movement that came to our shores a decade ago. So when we were invited to a tasting and pairing experience at the KWV Wine Emporium in Paarl, our expectations were set pretty high.
We arrived at the iconic KWV cellars on a chilly autumn morning, to be greeted by the inimitable Maya Friederich, the creative brain behind the Emporium. Dynamic, sartorial, elegant, Maya is multi-lingual Swiss French and obsessed with food and wine. She beams with pride as she talks us through the considerable collection on offer – gleaming shelves overflowing with wine, sparkling wine, liqueurs and brandy. The walls are lined with framed certificates displaying a multitude of awards, most notably the recent 2015 Regional Winner of the Best of Wine Tourism Award – a nod to the world-class experience that the KWV team have created at the Emporium.
“Since its opening in 2001, the KWV Wine Emporium has continued to experiment with creative pairings,” says Maya. “We want our guests to experience something truly memorable – a unique partnership between food and wine that enhances the brilliance and flavour of both.”
The variety on offer is extensive, and designed to meet the tastes of both local and international connoisseurs. We start off with the KWV Mentors and artisan pie tasting – undoubtedly the highlight of the morning.“The KWV Mentors are one of South Africa’s most awarded wine ranges,” says Maya. “We needed to pair them with a tasting experience that invested equal amounts of passion, skill and precision. We sourced a top local chef to create miniature artisanal pies that perfectly complement each of the Mentors.” The pies vary from unique local flavours to a classic lamb shank pasticcio. I am enamoured by the full-bodied Mentors Canvas 2013 accompanied by a small bobotie pasticcio. It is 09h30 and this is by far the best breakfast I’ve had in years.
“Taste is very closely linked to memory,” says Maya. “Food makes up our culture, our stories and our identities.” Our mother’s famous lasagne, the sticky sweet flavour of ice cream on a hot summer’s day – food connects us to our past and to one another.
“Bringing food into the wine tasting not only complements the wine in new ways, it also creates a story around the wine – a memory, a moment steeped in flavour.”
The Emporium offers tasting experiences to meet any mood. There’s the celebratory sparkling wine and nougat tasting, where one can expect sweet and semi-sweet bubbles accompanied by light, fruity nougat. The drier Cathedral Cellar MCC Brut is paired with a savoury nougat of olives and almonds, conceived of and handmade by Rose’s Nougat in Paarl.
To honour an age-old South African tradition, a classic biltong, nut and wine tasting is on offer. For those with a sweeter tooth, the Brandy and Huguenot Chocolate Tasting has been designed by expert local chocolatiers. Flavours include a KWV 20 Year Old Potstill Brandy paired with handmade Belgian white chocolate. The decadence continues with a rich and delicious brandy, spirit and fudge tasting, which includes pairing the iconic Laborie Alambic Brandy with an apricot fudge, and the spicy Imoya Brandy paired with a smooth cinnamon flavour.
“We source local artisans and chefs to create our tasting experiences,” says Maya. “Although some ingredients may be imported, the talent remains within South Africa. There are some extraordinary innovators in this field – South Africa has so much to offer.”
Last on the menu is the sweet wine, liqueur and cake tasting. These aren’t just any cakes: petite, delicate and complex in flavour, each cake has been conceived, baked, re-baked and baked again until Maya and her team were certain that each pairing rose to the occasion. Tawny port accompanies a miniature apple and pecan nut cake, with a spicy marzipan and sweet caramel flavour that sends you directly off to heaven. The famous Van der Hum is paired with a lemon mascarpone cake, creating a tangy, citrus taste experience.
Throughout our morning, the passionate Emporium team engage attentively with us, always eager to describe in detail the creative process behind each pairing, and the history and making of the wine, brandy and liqueurs.
“Integrity comes first to us,” says Maya in her elegant French accent, “Our wines and brandies are created with excellence in mind. And the pairings need to do the same.
It’s a science, but a beautiful one at that. A science that creates memories.”