“Chenin Blanc is the variety lying close to the heart of the wine farmers who have been growing grapes in the Breedekloof for generations,” says Du Toitskloof Wines cellar master Shawn Thomson. “Over decades the vines have adapted to the local terroir and viticulture practices, and with the region’s geography ensuring grapes ripen slowly, the complexity and character of Chenin fruit is found throughout the area.”
Thomson says the 2017 harvest was ten days later than average, allowing extra hang-time to add dimension and flavour.
“Despite the dry winter and hot weather during spring and early summer, things cooled in the Breedekloof towards the last half of January with the lower temperatures providing conditions in which the Chenin Blanc and other grapes achieved terrific chemistry compositions,” he says.
With the Breedekloof and Rawsonville being Chenin country, the grapes were all harvested from farms within a five km radius of the cellar. The vines, which grow in deep alluvial soils, are five to ten years old. To ensure they reached the cellar in the coolest possible condition, the grapes were mechanically harvested at night at 19°to 21° Balling and transported to the cellar enveloped in layers of dry ice to reduce oxygen contact. A mixture of greener and riper pickings results in a wine loaded with different flavours.
After crushing the mash was pumped to an enclosed press where it was kept on the skins for 24 hours to allow optimal flavour extraction. Only the free-run juice was then extracted and allowed to settle under reductive conditions. It was then cooled to -4° C and kept at that temperature for two to three weeks until all excess water in the juice had been frozen, a practice which increases the flavour concentration and the sugar level. The juice was then pumped out of the cold tanks and the temperature allowed to rise to 8° to 10° C where after it was inoculated with selected yeast strains. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of 13°C. After about 18 days the wine, now fermented dry, was protein- and cold-stabilised before bottling.
According to Thomson, this year’s Chenin Blanc truly “erupts with flavour”. “I find apple, pear, pineapple and tropical fruit on the nose as well as the palate. A medium-bodied wine, it has superb balance between fruit, acidity and residual sugar, ending with a crisp, pleasing taste on the palate.”
Being a seafood lover, Thomson recommends enjoying this wine with grilled fish, oysters, mussels or a seafood-potjie.