Behind every great wine is a powerful philosophy. For KWV’s Mentors range, it is that – when it comes to wine – Mother Nature is the greatest mentor. And through their flagship, award-winning The Mentors range, KWV’s winemakers seek to pass that wisdom on to all who listen.

The Toast of the Century

The year 2018 marks KWV’s centenary. The cooperative started as a small group of growers in the Western Cape’s Paarl region in 1918. Over the last century, they have grown into one of South Africa’s leading wine and spirits producers with a global reputation for excellence and quality.

Spanning 24 hectares, KWV’s cellars are the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, producing more than 15 million litres of wine each year. But in a modest, tucked-away corner of this immense space, there is a small collection of barrels, hand labelled, The Mentors.

A Place of Learning

As the name might suggest, The Mentors range was born in a scholarly environment. With strong ties to the University of Stellenbosch’s internationally renowned oenology department, the cellar is often home to postgraduate students trialling pioneering new winemaking techniques, which, in the past, mostly contributed to KWV’s extensive range of table wines. “The Mentors cellar was initially a space for us to push the boundaries of our winemaking knowledge,” says The Mentors winemaker, Izele van Blerk (above left), who marks her eleventh harvest with KWV in 2018.

But the winemaking team soon realised that the freedom they enjoy of constantly pursuing new varietals and blends led to remarkable terroir-driven wines that deserved their own place in the sun.

Meeting the Mentor

“The vineyard is crucial,” van Blerk says. “I have the rare privilege of going into a wide range of vineyards – to taste the grapes and look at the soil – and to decide on the very best grapes to use specifically for the Mentors.” Working with such an immense variety year after year has taught van Blerk the noble art of listening to the vines and of allowing them to express their respective terroirs to the fullest.

Van Blerk and her team work closely with KWV’s viticultural team, led by Chief Viticulturalist Marco Ventrella, to understand each vineyard, which not only inspires each vintage, but guides the winemakers. Just prior to harvest season, the winemaking team covers thousands of kilometres to inspect KWV’s vineyards from Lutzville to Elim.

The Mentors, which boasts a permanent portfolio of eight wines – Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Petit Verdot, Grenache Noir, Pinotage, Orchestra and Canvas – is truly a remarkable range designed for grand occasions. But van Blerk and her team are not limited by this portfolio. Every year, they pursue innovative new varietals and blends, which – if the wine meets The Mentors range’s exacting standards – they add to The Mentors’ cellar. 


The Mentors Orchestra is a very typical Bordeaux style wine with a touch of new world fruit aroma to add dimension and complexity. It is a multi-layered wine with intense concentration of violets and cigar box on the palate.


Shows hints of perfume of cassis, cherry and plums

Aromas of blackcurrants, plums and black pepper with nuances of pencil shavings and wild fennel

On the palate, the intense concentration is prompted by a firm tannin structure and layers of dark berry fruit with an excellent follow-through


In the début issue of JAN the Journal, Jan Hendrik and his sommelier at Restaurant JAN chose The Mentors Orchestra – with its rich concentration of fruit and fruit sweetness – as the perfect accompaniment to his iconic kaiing candle and mosbolletjie dish, which was also featured in his hit TV show.