They say dynamite comes in small packages, and that cannot be truer than in the case of Izele van Blerk, winemaker at KWV in Paarl. Focused, dynamic, talented, and nice to boot – quite something for a meisie from Olifantshoek. KWV is a giant in the wine business in South Africa, and long a stickler for tradition – with a capital T. However, even they had to move with the times as the market grew more and more competitive. Today they make more than 100 products ranging from excellent brandies to gin and even vodka, as well as superb prize-winning wines.
Izele’s current baby – she has worked on many of their ranges – is the prestigious The Mentors range of excellent wines, consisting of 14 of some of the best the country has to offer. The grapes are sourced from 67 farms, from Elgin in the Overberg to Darling on the West Coast, requiring extra vigilance in the fruit she and their three viticulturists use. A formidable task.
The Cabernet Sauvignon from Darling is especially noteworthy, as is the magnificent Elim Sauvignon Blanc. When one considers that the range includes superb red blends and knockout whites as well as prize-winning single varietals, one can only congratulate Izele on her versatility. You don’t get to where she is by dabbling – Izele van Blerk is living proof of that.
The town of Olifantshoek lies in the so-called Green Kalahari, an area of spectacular rugged beauty at the foot of the Lange berg. Nearby towns are great wine places all in the prolific Orange River Cellar group, so it’s not strange that Izele’s father had a big influence on her love and respect for wine and all it stands for. Far from any sign of French influence, with nary a Cape gable in sight, she grew up under the magnificent open skies of the vast Northern Cape.
She says, “I am a big dreamer, I love to dream about the impossible things in life. I believe in the saying, ‘If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough’. That is one of the mottos I live by every day.” These dreams have taken her to the top of her chosen profession, but it is not dreaming that gets you there, it is talent, hard work and plenty of grit that gets you through tough times. Izele loves “the finer things in life – good food, good wine and, even better, good company”.
She says, “I am not the greatest cook, but I love good food. Invite the right people to visit and they will definitely do the cooking. I will entertain them with some special wines.” Sounds good to me. As she says, “Expect the unexpected; every vintage will be different.”
Grenache Blanc 2014
A touch of oak lifts this wine to great heights, and plenty of lees contact adds to the complexity. With lots of fruit aromas and flavours it’s a knockout. Cries out for creamy mushroom risotto and pan-fried salmon. R125
Fresh and zingy – packed with citrus flavours. Six weeks’ lees contact and regular bâtonnage leads to creaminess on the palate. Grapes from Olifants River and Stellenbosch. Superb with roast duck or seared tuna. R125
Classic Bordeaux-style blend with Cabernet Sauvignon (52%) and Merlot (17%) leading. Eighteen months on French oak supports deep red-berry flavours beautifully – intense, magnificent. Red meat dishes – can be cellared for eight years. But who can wait? R220