Top 10 Chenin Excites

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The second annual Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge unlocked the obvious potential of Chenin Blanc with pure fruit, complexity, balance, some weight and power indicating the best of the best.

KWV, Perdeberg, Simonsig, Spier and Stellenrust once again impressed judges for a second year as part of the Top 10, an indication of these cellars’ reputation for high quality Chenin Blanc wines. New winners included Aeternitas, Boutinot, DeMorgenzon, L'Avenir and Leopard's Leap.

A total of 145 wines were entered into the competition, (15% up from the previous year) and tasted blind with no indication of vintage, cellar treatment or technical analysis by the five-person panel including Christian Eedes, one of South Africa’s most respected wine judges as chairperson; Jamie Goode from the United Kingdom, a London-based wine writer currently wine columnist with UK national newspaper The Sunday Express; Higgo Jacobs, certified with the Court of Master Sommeliers and wine judge; François Rautenbach, a man deeply invested in hospitality and heading up the ‘Singita Premier Wine Direct’ programme for Singita Game Reserves and sourcing and supplying wines for the Singita properties in Southern and East Africa; Cathy van Zyl, Master of Wine, regular judge and associate editor of Platter’s South African Wine Guide, as well as associate judges Jaap-Henk Koelewijn, sommelier and partner in Tokara Restaurant, and Tongai Joseph Dhafana sommelier at La Colombe.

“The overall quality was very good,” said Eedes. “Chenin Blanc is now such a high-calibre category that it is quite possible to conceive of two or three other equally plausible line-ups of winners in addition to the official top 10.”

According to the panel, the wines being rewarded showed pure fruit, but also complexity and balance. Some weight and power were considered acceptable as long as a certain threshold was not exceeded. With the more serious examples winemakers seem to have fallen in love with how malleable the variety is with it responding to a wide range of approaches in the vineyard and cellar. “It’s provides different, but equally legitimate flavours at different levels of ripeness, it takes oak well and it can handle oxidative treatment,” Eedes explained. “Achieving even greater finesse and nuance is where further advances will be made.”

For Ken Forrester, Chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association, Chenin Blanc seems to belong everywhere with wines from Durbanville, Paarl, Piekenierskloof, Swartland and Stellenbosch represented in the Top 10. “There can no longer be any doubt of the role that old vines play in the excellence of Chenin Blanc with all the wines coming off vineyards older than 20 years. May it stay long in the ground.”

“We are proud to be associated with South African Chenin Blanc and the wine industry as a whole,” said Willie du Plessis, Standard Bank Executive Business Banking Head in the Western Cape. “The 15% growth in entries in only the second year of this competition is a clear indication that the status of Chenin Blanc in this country has risen above expectations. By giving recognition to this grape variety we are part of a better wine industry for all.”

More about the wines:

Aeternitas Wines 2010

Price: R120

From a 49-year-old Swartland vineyard. Citrus and peach plus an intriguing leesy quality on the nose. Powerful palate providing a sweet and sour sensation. Super-concentrated fruit and bright acidity before a long, pithy finish.

Boutinot Tea Leaf 2014

Price: R74

From a Piekenierskloof vineyard, 40 years plus in age and surrounded by Rooibos. Pear, peach, spice and a yeasty undertone. Rich and broad with tangy acidity and a gently savoury finish. Very flavoursome.

DeMorgenzon Reserve 2014

Price: R210

From a vineyard on the Stellenbosch property planted in 1972. Citrus, pear peach, a little wet wool plus subtle notes of spice and dried herbs on the nose. The palate is very well balanced with pure fruit, bright acidity and nicely judged oak. Long, saline finish.

KWV Cathedral Cellar 2014

Price: R85

54% from a Paarl vineyard approximately 25 years old, 33.2% from a Swartland vineyard 36 years old and 12.8% from a Stellenbosch, approximately 30 years old. Citrus, pear and white peach plus just a hint of secondary character. Pure and focused on the palate,

L'Avenir Single Block 2014

Price: R195

From a vineyard on the Stellenbosch property planted in 1972. The nose shows a floral top note before pear and peach plus a hint of spice and some yeasty complexity. Lovely succulent fruit plus good freshness on the palate before a savoury finish.

Leopard's Leap Wines Culinaria Collection 2014

Price: R70

From 90% Chenin some 30 to 40 years old and 10% Grenache Blanc, both Voor Paardeberg. Peach, spice and a little nuttiness on the nose. Sweet fruit offset by bright acidity. Rich and broad with great texture and detail.

Perdeberg Winery The Dry Land Collection Barrel Fermented 2014

Price: R77

From two vineyards in the Agter-Paarl, one 26 years old and the other 32 years old. A floral top note before pear, peach and a hint of spice on the nose. The palate meanwhile shows excellent fruit concentration and driving acidity.

Simonsig Chenin Avec Chêne 2014

Price: R115

From the Stellenbosch property’s oldest Chenin Blanc vineyard planted in 1986. A striking wine showing peach and apricot, honey and spice. Rich and intense but balanced by fresh acidity, the finish long and savoury. Plenty of character.

Spier 21 Gables 2014

Price: R139

From a Durbanville vineyard, 40 years plus in age. The nose shows a top note of honeysuckle before citrus and peach plus vanilla. Good fruit weight and bright acidity on the palate. Appears rich and round in the mouth.

Stellenrust 49 Barrel Fermented 2013

Price: R130

From a 49-year-old vineyard in Bottelary, Stellenbosch. Citrus, peach, honey and some intriguing waxy, leesy notes. A punchy style with good depth of flavour and a pleasantly thick texture. Shows some development so probably best to drink soon.

For more information, visit www.chenin.co.za.



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