Brandy in Bishopscourt

On the eve of the KWV shareholders meeting today in Paarl which looks set to sell the company and all the brandy stocks to Viv Imerman, a tasting of SA brandy was convened at Teddy Tucker’s in Bishopscourt. Teddy is a diplomat of the old school: larger than life, fat cigars and snifters of brandy all round. And while his personal favourite of the spirits presented by Danie Pretorius of the SA Brandy Foundation was the Grundheim 9 yo, the overall favourite was the KWV 15 yo.

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A late entry from Oude Molen, the VSOP, also impressed yours truly and diplomat Jamison Pixley while man about town Aubrey Ncungama was partial to the Oude Molen XO. KWV brandymaster Ilse du Toit let slip the secret of the second favourite Van Ryn 12 yo which is distilled from very leesy wine, almost like grappa. The distilling process captures the essential oils and provides a stewed fruit flavour profile which is very seductive.

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Quite unlike its stablemate the Van Ryn 10 yo which is not even 100% pot still spirit but rather a blend of pot still and aged wine spirit which is far cheaper to producer in a continuous still. Distell CEO Richard Rushton should step in to sort out this confusion of vintage brandies being mistaken by consumers (such as me) for premium pot still spirit. Richelieu 10 yo is another confuser. The situation is almost unethical and beneath Distell.

Meanwhile the industry needs to embrace its terroir and label its product “Stellenbosch brandy” in the case of Van Ryn and “Grabouw brandy” in the case of Oude Molen. Grundheim gets the best moniker “Karoo brandy” with the chance for everyone to be a Karoo Kerel. 

Another help would be a residual sugar indicator as is the case with Champagne: Ultra Brut, Brut, Demi-Sec, etc. The legal limit is 15g/l according to Danie and most pot still spirit is in the range 9-11g/l which is too sweet for serious spirit. If single malts are too be successfully challenged then SA brandy needs to become drier. Meanwhile Teddy is offering his services as brandy ambassador for SA with New York, San Francisco and Chicago natural markets. SA producers should take him up on his offer.