Chenin kings of the Cape
Chenin Blanc is enjoying a renaissance as SA’s quintessential white variety, writes Graham Howe
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.