Yesterday marked the culmination of a weeklong celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life as he was buried in his childhood village of Qunu, South Africa. Continuing my conversations with South African winemakers, Ken Forrester of his eponymous label Ken Forrester Wines, takes a few minutes to share his thoughts on Mandela, the state of S.A.’s wine industry, and why Chenin Blanc is the most misunderstood (but not for long) grape.
A brief background on Ken Forrester Wines:
Situated on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain, in the heart of South Africa’s most famous wine region Stellenbosch, our vineyards are commonly referred to as the Home of Chenin Blanc and other premium award-winning wines. Over the years our range of top quality wines has received massive national and international acclaim with literally hundreds of awards and accolades over the last 20 years and are broadly available in reputable restaurants and exported around the globe. Ken Forrester’s philosophy has always been to create a range of handcrafted, individually made wines that suitably complement a wide variety of food styles and provide excellent value.
- Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc ($11.99 SRP)
- Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc ($14.99 SRP)
- Ken Forrester The FMC ($64.99 SRP)
- Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest ($54.99 SRP)
Where were you born and where do you live now?
I was born in Chingola, Zambia, miles from any vineyards or wineries! I am now living in the shadow of the Helderberg Mountain in the region of Stellenbosch right on the Atlantic ocean – the most beautiful place in the world.
How did you get into the wine business?
Sheer luck–not sure if it was good luck! Passion, passion, passion, careful what you wish for!
The world witnessed the passing and subsequent burial of Nelson Mandela last week. What was the mood of the country and how do you think he influenced South Africa’s wine industry?
With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela and the very extensive world interest and wonderful coverage, it is an amazing time to almost re-live the Magic of Madiba. There have been so many poignant reminders of his canny way, his amazing statesmanship, his ability to grasp a moment and define it for all time. Again, we as South Africans and pretty much all of the world, are reminded about our transition from Apartheid, minority government to the democratic government of today, and the many pitfalls and crevasses on the way, it is truly a modern miracle that we made it happen. And it in no small part rests with the incredible leadership of Mandela, a man often content to allow the younger more nimble members of the flock to lead the way while he, like the good shepherd brought all the flock with him; he was always a shining example of humility and thoughtfulness. Here passes a great man…
Do you think South African wines have any particular reputation in the States that you think is inaccurate?
Yes, too often we are seen as cheap and cheerful “critter” wines – 2 cats, 3 dogs, spotted frog, etc. This is because we are seemingly naïve enough to provide buyers with their request “for the cheapest possible juice” but this is not what SA is all about; our best wines can stand their ground with the very best in the world and this “cheap wine” perception is unfortunate and inaccurate.
Which wine or grape is the least understood or respected?
Chenin Blanc, but its time is coming; more and more quality producers are making great wines from Chenin Blanc.
What excites you most about South African wine right now?
Better quality every year and we’ve got a great new wave of young winemakers!
What do you drink when relaxing at home?
Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc or Renegade (a GSM blend).
What types of food do you enjoy eating?
Fresh, wholesome pasta; grilled/barbeque meat; risotto; and fresh, garden grown salads.
What music do you listen to?
Blues, Jazz, Rock & Roll
Yep! Max, Bella and puppies Phantom & Whiskey.