June 15 marks the annual #DrinkChenin day where producers, retailers, restaurants and wine drinkers alike unite to celebrate all things Chenin. None more so than in South Africa where the white grape variety has had such success and is now recognised as producing some of the finest Chenin Blancs in the world. Wine merchants, restaurants and bars are being encouraged to back #DrinkChenin day by hosting their own tastings or simply opening up a few bottles of Chenin to share with their customers. To help kick things off this weekend we revisit Roger Jones’ trip to Cape Wine 2018 where he was able to pick out his own Chenin Blanc favourites from South Africa.
If you are looking for some new wines to help celebrate #DrinkChenin day then here’s a selection from the country that has made Chenin Blanc its home – South Africa – from our editor-at-large Roger Jones.
It was a rare opportunity to try a huge range of Chenin Blancs many that I have not had before. The growth of Chenin may well soon surpass Chardonnay as the elite clever grape from South Africa, however there are still many honeyed styles that betray the class of a bone dry Chenin that has been tempered on lees.
Of course as a late arrival to Cape Wine 2018, I needed to surf the venue and get to grips with the quality on offer, and whilst there were some that did not ring my bell, there was enough diversity and excitement on show to elevate Chenin to a Grand Cru mark.
As we will see from The Buyer’s reports this week, Cape Town is engulfed with the crème de la crème of the world’s press; China, Sweden, the US are all here with a bumper crowd of Brits looking to evolve South Africa imports once Brexit forces the Europeans to stop selling us wine.
So what about the wines that sparkled in the sunshine?
Olifantsberg Chenin, 2017
Clean as a whistle, linear focused and exceptional value
Mont Bois Estate Chenin Blanc Groot Steen, 2016
Nina-Mari Bruwer makes exceptional wines up in Robertson, and this classy Chenin showcases not only a feminine elegance but a focused savoury Chenin that is gutsy but has a complexity that will evolve with age.
De Trafford Chenin Blanc, 2017
A brilliant winemaker, ex-architect and artist wife Anita are now joined by their son in the business, this is a classic Loire style oozing in confidence – a stellar wine.
Ken Forrester, 2016
What can we say from FMC to a Dirty Little Secret, the Father Christmas of Chenin
Bowman, Optenhorst, Old Vine, 2016
A single vineyard Old Bushvine planted in 1952, textured, layered and complex, needs time, but a wonderful vivacious wine.
Bowman Cellars, Reserve No1, Sir Lie, 2017
Time on lees, no oak, produces an exceptional Chenin, beautiful precise flavours, slightly nutty but the freshness is exciting
Beaumont Hope Marguerite, 2017
Been a long fan of Sebastian and his wine ages with great grace, this is another stunner, drink now, or get excited in five years time
Illimis Chenin Blanc, 2016
A new one for me was this stunning Chenin from Lucinda Heyns. Illimis is the Latin word for ‘clarity’ and it sure showed – such amazing purity, freshness and a focused wine of extreme class; Francophile Loire-style Chenin at its best
I tried three wines from this young husband and wife Team (she was christened Margaux); they are not set in any region but they source amazing grapes from Stellenbosch and the Swartland to make wines that are truly epic. It’s a small production but extreme quality. Watch these guys shine.
So in conclusion Roger
A wonderful start to Cape Town, showing the pleasure of Chenin Blanc, a wine that I think that can compete with middle range Chardonnay to offer both appetising wines and wines that are perfect with food matching.
- To get an idea of how South Africa is celebrating #DrinkChenin day on June 15 go to South Africa’s Chenin Blanc Association website here.