Merit Wine and Spirit Challenge 2021

The Trophy for the best Rosé / Blanc de noir went to KWV / Laborie for their Laborie Rosé.

KWV senior winemaker Kobus van der Merwe with the 2021 Laborie Rosé

We asked the senior winemaker for white, rosé and sparkling wine, Kobus van der Merwe a few questions to find out more about this remarkable wine.

Where did you grow up, and what made you go into winemaking?

I grew up in Montagu on a vineyard farm where my passion for vineyards, grapes, and wine developed.

Where did you study, and where did you work before KWV / Laborie?

I studied at Elsenburg, and after that, I travelled to New Zealand and the USA for harvest and winemaking. I also worked at a few wineries in South Africa, gaining experience before starting at Opstal Estate as an assistant winemaker.  I was appointed as winemaker at Du Preez Estate where I stayed for five years. The 2022 harvest will be my 10th harvest at KWV.

Who played a vital role in you becoming a well-rounded winemaker, and why?

Firstly my father and grandfather played a role in developing my love and passion for wine.  They taught me everything about farming with vineyards and regular trips to the winery, where our grapes were delivered. This kept me fascinated and intrigued.  I also worked with great role models like Richard Rowe, Johann Fourie, and Wim Truter, who taught me everything I know today.   

What do you think is the most important characteristic a winemaker should have?

It is difficult to pinpoint one as it is important to be calm, patient, decisive, fearless and to be able to make mistakes, learn from them, and build on them.  If you do not try new techniques you will stop gaining experience and not keep up with trends, and will not be cost-effective.

What is the secret to your success?

I see myself as still a young gun in the industry with still a lot to learn.

At the end of the day, it is important to keep your feet on the ground and be open-minded to want to learn every day.

“We all are very excited and very honoured to have received this trophy, and it was unexpected.”

What are the challenges facing a winemaker in making Rosé / Blanc de noir?

Rosé is one of the more difficult styles to produce, especially a wine that is light in colour but expressive in flavour.  Working with rosé is almost the same as working with Sauvignon blanc and it is important to work reductively from the start to produce a beautiful coloured, fruity, fresh, and crisp wine. Yeast selection and fermentation temperature are also very important that will determine the style of rosé.    

Are there any vinicultural practices that differentiate you from the rest?

The management is not much different in the vineyards than the rest.  Rosé grapes are harvested much earlier than red grapes for red wine.

All our red grapes for rosé are harvested by hand early morning to minimise skin contact and ensure a light colour without any tannin extraction.

What role do you think your terroir at KWV / Laborie plays?

Most important is the well-drained granite soils of Laborie that produce that pure, crisp, and fruity rosés with a mineral finish on the pallet.

Paarl is known for its warmer climate also contributes to the variety of intense fruit flavours evident in the wine.     

How do you see South African wines now and in the future on the international stage?

The playing field has levelled over the past few years, and the South African wines do stand their ground. When looking at international competitions, South African wines does well. Many won double gold medals and trophies.  As the South African wine quality progresses and keeps up with international wine styles, trends, and in combination with the value, the South African wine industry can only flourish in the future.   

What does it mean to you and, to Laborie to win the Merit Wine and Spirit Awards Trophy for the best Rosé / Blanc de noir?

We all are very excited and very honoured to have received this trophy, and it was unexpected. It is an indication that the style and quality of the Laborie rosé are on the right track and that we can build on the quality. 

We are thankful to our partners who helped to make this event possible:

For all enquiries, visit https://themeritchallenge.com, or email hello@themeritchallenge.com