Chenin Blanc is the most planted white grape variety in SA at 18.22% followed by Colombar at 12.01%. Most of the Colombar goes into brandy production but much of the Chenin goes into making some of the most delicious—and growing in popularity—wines we have.
Words by Greg Landman
Consider that the biggest red planting is Cabernet Sauvignon at 11.33 % and the whole picture emerges. Ranging from fruity and fresh to complexly intriguing wooded examples this is a grape that can be savoured with a wide range of food or drunk on its own. The Loire Valley in France, traditionally the home of Chenin production, does not produce as much, and the taste of their Chenins is somewhat different to ours. SA Chenins range from fruity, almost crisp, unwooded charmers, with low acids that won’t strip the palate off you, to wooded, smoky wines with tangy honeyed nuances, to succulent raisiny Late Harvest delights packed with sultana flavours, Chenin delivers on all fronts, even MCC charmers. All of them are better served cold, but don’t freeze the life out of them; take them out of the fridge 20 minutes before you are going to drink them, except of course for the bubbly. Chenin Blanc (also called Steen in SA) is the Madonna of the wine industry, continually proving that it can be all things to all people, and reinventing itself at the snap of a finger.
The Chenin Blanc Association—at the moment chaired by Ken Forrester—fosters the aims of its members and their motto –DRINK CHENIN—a catchy phrase if ever there was one –can be seen all over the place.
Every year The Standard Bank—everyone needs money, don’t they?—Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge seeks to highlight the very best that Chenin has to offer to us the thirsty consumers. A panel of expert judges which had SA’s only Masters of Wine, Cathy Van Zyl and Richard Kershaw, on its panel, tasted 133 entries in the Challenge and eventually selected 33 from which the Top10 were chosen. The function took place at the elegant Delaire Graff estate in the Helshoogte.
The Top 10 were
Cederberg Private Cellar Five Generations Chenin Blanc 2015 (debut): R220
DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016: R350
Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut): R130
Nederburg Heritage Heroes The Anchorman Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut): R150
Perdeberg Winery The Dry Land Collection Courageous Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016: R86
Spice Route Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut): R110
Spier Wines 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2016: R185
Stellenrust 52 Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016: R200
Stellenrust 51 Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2015: R500
Windmeul Kelder Chenin Blanc Reserve 2016 (debut): R80
Each of these wines earns a prize of R25 000 for the producer that must, in terms of the competition regulations, be used “to reinforce economic and social benefits in the workplace”.