Kudos to the champions of Retsina from last week - Jeremy Eubanks, Robert Stelmachuk, Mitchell Baker, Sean Dowling, inderpal singh and Dustin Chabert!
This week: History of South Africa's KWV
Tell us a story! You may want to read this too.....
This is from the Wine Anorak web-site:
"KWV has been a pivotal figure in the South African wine industry. It was initially formed in 1918 as a cooperative, but as well as producing and marketing wine, it also had an official role in regulating and administering South African wine in general. In recent years there have been major changes to its organization. In 1997 it ceased being a cooperative and was converted into a group of companies. The administrative and regulatory functions were transferred to a new organization called the Wine Industry Trust, and the commercial side of the business became KWV International. Then, at the beginning of 2003, KWV International spun off the cooperative side of the business (now known as the Wijngaard Co-operative, concentrating solely on the interests of producers), and now focuses solely on commercial goals (KWV Ltd)."
KWV's rise is a cautionary tale of government and business. Originally a pretty decent idea, to help a really struggling wine industry through consolidation, the KWV's growth really happened parallel to an oppressive government coming into power. It turns out, complete control (as both the apartheid government and KWV both more or less had of their respective situations) stifles creation of beauty and quality. People produce to produce in situations like this (same can be said for some of the giant wine corporations in other parts of the new world that are run as businesses first, wineries of quality second). Bountiful harvests created mediocre wine, which in the end did more damage than good. The wine industry still hasn't completely recovered, because consumers expect low priced wine from South Africa, not fine wine priced accordingly. A farmer who creates a small portion of a final blend, and who has no creative control of it, has little to no incentive to produce a great product. As the KWV was given more regulatory control, they simply made things worse. Imagine a problem with a vineyard operation and it was there under their guidance. Disease, poor quality, over cropping, underpaid worker, bad site selection, you name it, it was happening. The end of apartheid saw a loosening of the KWV's grip. They still exist today, but with little influence into the whole of ZA's wine industry. The whole story and history look a little like Royal Oporto. As they operate not as a regulatory body, but a winery, it seems as if quality is increasing and maybe some day can be really good. The rest of the wine industry is certainly better off now than it was under the apartheid governement/KWV partnership.