Kleine Zalze acts to save bush vine Chenin

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Kleine Zalze winemaker Johan Joubert has warned of the ongoing threat facing South Africa’s old bush vine Chenin Blanc as he unveiled the producer’s most ambitious expression of this variety to date.

It’s about economic survival for these old vines,” he remarked, pointing out that the bush vines “have half the amount of arms and shoots of normal trellised vines” which contributes to a yield of just “4-6 tonnes per hectare.”

Similarly, Joubert reported that the bunches of grapes from bush vines weigh on average “80-100 grams, they’re very concentrated,” compared to the average 240g bunch weight delivered by trellised Chenin vines.

Although Chenin Blanc retains a major presence in South Africa, representing 18,100ha of the country’s 101,000ha total plantings and 33% of its white grape vineyards, Joubert warned that bush vines continue to be ripped out in favour of more productive vines.

“In 2011, 80ha were ripped out and only 8ha replanted,” he claimed, continuing: “In 2012, 69ha were ripped out and 13ha were replanted.”

In order to address this decline, Joubert argued: “It’s very important to make it financially viable for the producer by going for wines of higher quality and real personality that can go the extra mile for South Africa; that way we can definitely go up in terms of price points.”

Chenin Blanc already represents around 35% of Kleine Zalze’s total wine production, with the Stellenbosch producer exporting three different expressions, as well as its Foot of Africa brand that goes mainly to the Swedish market.

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