An Interview with Kevin Arnold of Waterford Estate

Kevin Arnold Kevin Arnold, winemaker and part owner of Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa chats briefly with Shivani Dogra about his estate, wines and India as a market. Waterford Estate is situated in the picturesque Blaauwklippen Valley, in the world-renowned Stellenbosch region.

How long have you been associated with wine?
I’ve been making wine for 30 years. I went to study in the Stellenbosch University to learn about wine making. I’d grown up on a farm with animals – horses and sheep, and then when I began studies, I fell in love with wine and it became my hobby. It’s first of all my hobby and then a job and I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
Why does wine hold such a fascination for you?
I think the nice thing about wine is that it’s a lifestyle product. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world or what your background is, if you are introduced to good food, then wine should become a part of that experience.
It might take longer for some people because of their background and culture, but once wine becomes a routine in your life in terms of the food you enjoy, it then becomes like water and you need it everyday. You share it with friends and you talk about it all the time and it becomes a passion.
The nice thing about it is that you don’t have to know too much about wine. Just remember the name or the place that it comes from and enjoy it. And if wine becomes interesting for you, you will automatically learn more about it. But having said that, I’d like to add that you don’t need to know too much about it.
What kinds of wines do you produce?
Waterford Estate is best known for its red wines. We produce Kevin Arnold Shiraz, Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, then we produce The Jem, a top end wine which is considered to be one of the best wines of South Africa. It’s a red wine. We also do white wines like the Waterford Estate Sauvignon Blanc. This I think is a very good wine for the Indian market and would be a wonderful combination with your foods. And there’s another white, the Waterord Estate Chardonnay.
Which other wines do you think are best paired with Indian food – and have you had Indian food?
I have (had Indian food). We’ve done many tastings around the world with Indian foods and wines. It was in the beginning, a challenge, but it’s not a challenge anymore. I think the wine that best goes with Indian foods is, amongst the white wines, Sauvignon Blanc, because it’s not too fruity. It’s soft and gentle and easy on that palate. Amongst the red wines I would say Shiraz is the most exciting wine that I’ve experienced. The blended red wines are good as well.
This is your first venture into India, how do you plan to meet the challenges here?
We’ve just started in this market and it’s very new for us. We’ve done our research, by which I mean we’ve tasted our wines with spicy foods, be it in New York or London. And that’s the thing with wine, people like to try different food. If we understand the flavours of the food that helps us make better wines. We try to take that into the whole equation of blending and making wines.
I think the market here is very exciting. I heard figures today where they’re talking of a growth of 20% or even if it’s just a growth of 5 or 8%, I think it’s very exciting. I think wine will grow in India and I think it’s like the economy, it’s like what I’d call destination marketing. Business men and women are travelling. They get to enjoy something somewhere in the world, then they come back home and they also want to do what they enjoyed elsewhere. So that’s the most exciting thing about India.
Where are you looking to retail in India ?
We are not a very big company. We’re a family owned winery and we don’t produce large volumes. I have come to India to position my brand and the Waterford brand is one of the great brands of the South African wine industry. I want to position my brand primarily in hotels and restaurants and if there is anything left over I’m sure we will go into retail. It’s the kind of brand that you can go around and experience in some of the best restaurants in London, Stockholm and New York.
How do you plan to meet with logistical problems that this country poses in terms of storing and transporting wine?
From a logisitc point of view, as Africans living in the southern tip of Africa, we’ve experienced these problems most of our lives because we’ve supplied our wines to Central Africa and East Africa and other areas with warm temperatures. Logistics are a major issue there. We’ve overcome most of these in some of the most remote parts of Africa, so I don’t see this as a problem in India at all.

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