Graham Howe with photos courtesy of Andrés Lizana Prado
Graham Howe reports on the first major tasting of the year – The Magic of Chenin Blanc – a showcase for consumers held in Cape Town in April.
Chenin Blanc has come a long way over the last two decades. The makeover of South Africa’s most planted variety, the great white hope of the winelands, shows how the re-branding of a single variety can grow new consumer markets. The Diner’s Club Winemaker of the Year put Chenin in the spotlight in 2016 – won by Pierre Wahl of Rijk’s Private Cellar in Tulbagh for his Chenin Blanc 2014. The style evolution of Chenin was demonstrated by forty producers who offered one-on-one tastings to enthusiastic wine consumers at an inaugural showcase in Cape Town in April 2017.
Carla Joubert of Overhex Wines showed a range of Chenin Blanc under their delightfully quirky Balance and (Nguni) Survivor labels. Made from Swartland grapes, Survivor Chenin is made using reductive techniques to retain the purity of the natural fruit flavours and zesty lime acidity of the variety. Rated 4,5 stars by Platter, this was one of my favourite wines at the tasting – and another example of innovative techniques used by Chenin winemakers (down to using untoasted French oak). While Balance Chenin is a great example of great value for money wine – proving that Chenin as a variety consistently over-delivers at all price-points – the quirky new Survivor Offspring Blend (Chenin, Sauvignon and Viognier) is intriguing – a typical example of the new generation of excellent Chenin Blanc based blends.
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