Chenin kings of the Cape

Chenin Blanc is en­joy­ing a re­nais­sance as SA’s quin­tes­sen­tial white va­ri­ety, writes Graham Howe

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AVERSATILE wine for all palates and pock­ets, Chenin is stak­ing a place along­side Chardon­nay and Sau­vi­gnon Blanc. The Cin­derella of Cape wine, the most widely planted grape in SA is made in at least six dif­fer­ent styles — fresh and fruity, off-dry, dry, wooded, no­ble late har­vest and as Cap Clas­sique sparkling wine.

Raz­van Macici, cel­lar mas­ter at Neder­burg, de­clares, “I be­lieve Chenin Blanc is a great wine. We like to use grapes sourced from old bushvines to ex­press the di­ver­sity of the va­ri­ety. The most suc­cess­ful Chenins se­duce with a light brush of wood.” Af­ter at­tend­ing the an­nual Chenin tast­ings I’ve se­lected my favourite new re­leases: Allee Bleue Chenin Blanc 2010. Wine­maker Van Zyl du Toit be­lieves Chenin Blanc and Pino­tage, the fo­cus va­ri­eties of this her­itage Franschhoek cel­lar, are truly South African cul­ti­vars. Bar­rel-fer­mented on the lees, the wine has rich and ripe pas­sion fruit and lime flavours, fresh min­er­al­ity and lively acid­ity. Fab­u­lous with spicy fare. Dornier Chenin Blanc 2010. Wine­maker JC Steyn says the se­cret to this de­li­cious wine is ripe fruit of ex­cep­tional qual­ity from the Swart­land, home of dry­land bushvine Chenin. This el­e­gant wine tempts with white pear aro­mas and ripe apri­cot and peach flavours on a creamy palate from ex­tended lees con­tact. Dou­glas Green Chenin Blanc 2010. The win­ner of best-value cat­e­gory in Wine’s Chenin Blanc Chal­lenge 2011

This new re­lease from the her­itage Huguenot es­tate in Franschhoek is an in­no­va­tive blend of two fash­ion­able va­ri­eties. Wine­maker Jaco Marais has cre­ated an in­trigu­ing blend with lay­ers of apri­cot and peach flavours in a spicy wine that shows skil­ful har­mony of fruit and wood. Kanu Chenin Blanc 2009. Teddy Hall won the Chenin Chal­lenge four times when at Kanu and Rud­era. (His cur­rent Kat­bakkies and Teddy Hall Chenins are highly rated). His suc­ces­sors at Kanu won two places at Wine’s Chenin Chal­lenge 2011 with un­wooded and wooded ver­sions. Kleine Zalze Cel­lar Se­lec­tion Chenin comes from highly prized bushvines in Welling­ton. Wine­maker Jaco Pot­gi­eter says tra­di­tional dry­land bushvines cre­ate wine with more struc­ture, body and fruit in­ten­sity, and lus­cious guava and ap­ple fruit. Fleur du Cap No­ble Late Har­vest 2009. White wine of the year in Plat­ter’s 2011 Wine Guide, this five-star dessert wine is made from Chenin Blanc botry­tis grapes sourced from highly prized 30-year-old bushvines in Stel­len­bosch. Serve this volup­tuous pot­pourri of hon­ey­suckle, litchi and mar­malade with pi­quant cheeses and sweets. Graham Beck Bowed Head Chenin Blanc 2009. Rated one of the top 12 wines in Wine’s Chenin Chal­lenge 2011, it is named from the kneel­ing po­si­tion of the viti­cul­tur­ist when tend­ing ven­er­a­ble bushvines. This wood-ma­tured wine is all ripe trop­i­cal fruit and spices. Grande Provence Chenin Blanc Viog­nier 2010. Blanc Bushvines 2010. A ver­ti­cal tast­ing of vin­tages of Chenin from 2004 to 2010 was a learn­ing curve in the cel­lar’s fo­cus white va­ri­ety. Jo­han Joubert blended riper, slightly botry­tis Chenin with fresh grapes to cre­ate a de­lec­ta­ble un­wooded wine with pure trop­i­cal fruit. Kleine Zalze Vine­yard Se­lec­tion Chenin Blanc 2010. One of three styles from one of Stel­len­bosch’s top pro­duc­ers of Chenin won Wine’s Chenin Blanc Chal­lenge 2010 with its 2008 vintage. Cel­lar mas­ter Jo­han Joubert makes this toasty bar­rel-fer­mented Chenin with a creamy feel and lay­ers of trop­i­cal fruit from old bushvines. Neder­burg Wine­mas­ter’s Re­serve Chenin Blanc 2009. Cel­lar mas­ter Raz­van Macici cel­e­brates a decade at the renowned Paarl cel­lar as win­ner of Win­ery of the Year in Plat­ter’s SA Wines 2011. Perde­berg Rex Equus 2008. The win­ner of Wine’s Chenin Blanc Chal­lenge 2011 lives up to its “king of horses” la­bel. Wine­maker Ri­aan Moller iden­ti­fied his win­ning for­mula: a com­plex as­sem­blage of bar­relfer­mented, un­wooded and rich, ripe Chenin with but­tery, smoky nu­ances and tangy apri­cot and peach flavours. Vil­liera Bar­rel-Fer­mented Chenin Blanc 2010. Wine­maker Jeff Grier aims to cre­ate a code for wine la­bels that will clas­sify all styles of Chenin for con­sumers.

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