From creamy oak to fruit
Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted grape variety in SA, writes Graham Howe
FIRST planted in the Cape in the 17th century, Chenin Blanc has been cultivated in some of the oldest bushvines in the winelands. Young or old, Chenin Blanc is renowned for its versatility and ageability, as a wine made that covers a wide spectrum of styles.
Planted in almost every region from the Swartland to the Orange River, Chenin Blanc is promoted as the great white hope of the winelands. The Chenin Blanc Association recognises six broad styles of Chenin Blanc — fresh and fruity, rich and ripe (dry), rich and ripe (wooded), rich and ripe (offdry), dessert (special and noble late harvest) and sparkling wine (bottle or tank-fermented).
Donkiesbaai Steen 2011. Rust en Vrede has released a flagship Chenin Blanc (labelled as Steen, its traditional local name) named after the family home on the West Coast. Made from 30-year-old dryland bush vines, this part barrel-fermented wine balances tropical lemon and lime flavours with a creamy brush of oak.
False Bay Chenin Blanc 2011. Made from grapes grown on traditional bush vines and fermented with wild native yeast, this melange of apple aromas and tropical fruit flavours expresses the hallmark character and terroir of this traditional Cape variety. Natural wild yeast fermentation creates a generous mouthfeel and bright acidity.
Kleine Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2011. The grapes were sourced from old, low yield-bearing bush vines in the Helderberg to create wines with fresh varietal fruit and a brush of botrytis. This bestvalue Chenin, a signature white variety showcases tropical guava, ripe pineapple, litchi and peach character and zesty acidity.
Leeuwenkuil Chenin Blanc 2011. This historic farm in the Pardeberg in the Swartland has launched a new range. Made from grapes grown on 28-year-old “goblets” (an ancient dryland vine method), this typical Swartland Chenin shows green apple, granadilla and guava flavours, good minerality, leesy texture and a zesty finish.
Andrea and Chris Mullineux blend grapes from old bush vines in three types of soil to show the aspects of Chenin Blanc. Fermented with indigenous yeasts, left on the lees for 12 months, bottled unfiltered to create a rich wine with fresh pear and citrus flavours, and a
mineral, spicy finish.
Perdeberg Chenin Blanc 2011. Founded 70 years ago, the landmark Paarl winery is renowned for its signature Chenin Blanc made in three styles: the flagship Rex Equus, reserve and standard versions. This awardwinning vintage is full-bodied with guava aromas, tropical fruit salad flavours and fresh acidity.
Remhoogte Honeybunch Reserve Chenin Blanc 2011. Sourced from a 26-year-old single vineyard planted on the slopes of the Simonsberg, this barrel-fermented Chenin from a boutique family wine cellar spent a year on its lees, has spicy aromoas of apricots, fynbos and figs with luscious flavours of wild honey, peaches and cream.
Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2011. This famous family wine estate in Stellenbosch that released its first vintage in 1968 using this signature white variety still makes award-wining Chenin Blanc in two styles — unwooded (a tropical fruit salad of pineapple, ripe pears and guavas) and the lightly wooded Chenin Avec Chêne 2010.
Spier 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2010. The new flagship label is named after the 21 Cape Dutch gables on one of the Cape’s oldest wine farms. Acclaimed at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2012, IWC 2012 and Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2012, old vines contribute ripe tropical flavours of apricots, apples and marmalade.
“T” Noble Late Harvest 2009. A cult dessert wine made by Ken Forrester from old bushvines. Botrytis imparts the rich, unctuous character of this golden elixir with a marmalade nose, rich tropical apricot, peach and pineapple flavours, and a sweet and sour twist, a spicy, wild honey finish.
Waterkloof Circumstance Straw Wine 2009. Chenin Blanc grapes were dried on a “mattress” of straw to concentrate the natural aromas and flavours of the grapes grown in these biodynamic vineyards and high-altitude cellar. This “liquid sunshine” has luscious flavours of apricot, dried pear, honey and caramelised nuts.