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Fundi wines

by Tom Cannavan, 08/09

A premium South African red wine brand called Fundi is now available in the UK. Fundi supports a novel job creation and skills development initiative in South Africa, with profits from all sales going towards the training of 2010 wine stewards ahead of the Football World Cup, which is taking place in South Africa in 2010.

Since its launch in September 2008, the Fundi initiative has trained a third of the target number of candidates, drawn from the hospitality industry and the ranks of the unemployed. It is a project that will have direct, positive impact on the experience of visitors travelling to the Cape for the FIFA World Cup, thanks to the confident service they will receive. It is hoped this positive experience will create an influential group of wine ambassadors who can contribute to the success of the South African wine industry both locally and abroad.

The name Fundi is the isiZulu word for 'learner'. The Fundi label features a stylised sunflower symbolising hope, and each bottle carries a beaded neck tag produced by informal roadside beaders, and commissioned for this project.
  


   The Fundi brand will comprise six premium red blends, and Virgin Wines has taken the first two to be bottled. The first is a Cabernet / Merlot blend, made by chief winemaker at the Company of Wine People, Nicky Versfeld. The other is a Cape Blend of Merlot, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon, made by Nontsikelelo Biyela, winemaker at Stellekaya.

I met Nontsikelelo (left, picture courtesy daylife.com) on my most recent trip to the Cape. She struck me as a winemaker of great potential, so it is fantastic to see these wines on UK shelves - especially when they support such a worthwhile project.

the wines

Fundi Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2006
This Cabernet-dominated blend has a deep, inky quality on the nose, with a touch of leafy eucalyptus in the background, plummy, dark fruit and a layering of savoury, polished wood from 22 months ageing in French oak, none of it new. The palate has plenty of ripeness and sweetness, the black olive and gently herbal character of the Cabernet balancing a more plush black fruit sweetness, and smooth, ripe tannins bolstering the whole picture. The wine is beautifully balanced, with a savoury, keen edge that keeps the finish dry and mouthwatering. Spice kicks in too, in a fairly chunky and robust wine, but one with a bit of refinement. 91/100. £14.99 Virgin Wines

Fundi Stellenbosch Red Blend 2007
There's a wonderfully opulent, black velvet smoothness about the nose of this wine, with just a touch of cedar and cigar box spice, and plenty of ripe, creamy blackcurrant fruit. On the palate that depth of black fruit is there, but there's a clarity and bit of structure about this wine with quite big, grippy tannins, but elegance too. Fourteen months in French oak, but only 30% of it new, has given a savoury quality rather than anything overtly toasty, and the wine carries through gracefully, the Pinotage giving good acidity, spice and a touch of its distinctive damsony charcter in a very dry, food-friendly finish. 90/100. £14.99 Virgin Wines

Read more about Fundi wines and the 2010 project on their website at fundiwine.co.za. The wines are available in the UK from virginwines.co.uk.