White wines can be tricky. Chardonnay is one of most popular ones on the market today, but many people still find it to be a bit too “oaky.” Sauvignon Blanc on the other hand, another top contender, is often criticized for being a bit too “grassy.”
No matter which white wine you select – whether ordering for your table at a restaurant or serving it while entertaining – there always appears to be someone who has something to say. Enter a rising star in the white wine world, a near-foolproof crowdpleaser that is neither too oaky nor too grassy: Chenin Blanc.
Originating in France’s Loire valley, Chenin Blanc is a grape that experts praise for its extreme versatility, with any two varieties from any two winemakers unlikely to be too similar.
Although the grape comes from France and the United States led the world in acreage in the 1980’s, South Africa currently leads the world in production, with the varietal resulting in over one-fifth of all vineyard plantings, producing about half the world’s supply annually.
It’s also been the fastest-growing South African varietal in the United States in recent years, up over thirty-five percent from five years ago. “I think it’s a fun grape for wine drinkers to explore,” said a Wines of South Africa rep.
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We are proud to be part of the Breedekloof Chenin Blanc initiative. Our new wooded Chenin Blanc is making a name for itself and although it is a first time for us to add a Chenin to our wine list, the feedback has been amazing!
Here are two articles that features the initiative:
Over the years the Breedekloof Wine Valley has established itself as an area for slow ripening vines. Key to this is the late bud break and long hanging time on the vines.
The geography, climate, mountains, rivers and varied geology all contribute to a unique winemaking potential and this has essentially established the area as the home of South African Chenin Blanc.
Chenin Blanc represents 18% of all South Africa’s vineyards and the Breedekloof Wine Valley has 15% of all Chenin Blanc plantings and supplies 21% or one-fifth of all the wine made from Chenin in South Africa.
The varietal has found its true home in this region, with deep alluvial soils containing smooth river pebbles, which is ideally suited to Chenin Blanc. Chenin Blanc is probably the world’s most versatile variety, ideally suited to many wine styles. This has prompted the Breedekloof winemakers to produce small quantities of Chenin Blanc using innovative winemaking methods and expressing terroirs, especially old vineyards, which has resulted in the Breedekloof Chenin Blanc Initiative.
Nine wineries, all members of the Breedekloof Wine Route, form part of this exciting collaboration, and have all launched a 2014 vintage into the market:
- Bergsig Estate: Chenin Blanc Reserve
- Botha Cellar: Barrel Fermented Bush Vine Chenin Blanc
- Breeland: Chenin Blanc
- Deetlefs Estate: Reserve Chenin Blanc
- Goudini Wines: Mirabilis Regis-filia Chenin Blanc
- Lateganskop: Zahir Chenin Blanc
- Merwida: Chenin Blanc
- Opstal Estate: Carl Everson Chenin Blanc
- uniWines Vineyards: Daschbosch Steen
Still in its infancy the initiative has already received positive feedback and support from industry influencers such as Ken Forrester and Tim Atkin MW.
“We’re thrilled about this initiative as we’ve found that by focusing on Chenin Blanc we are able to lift the image of the entire Breedekloof Wine Valley and the various styles of wines produced. Although each winery was left to use their own discretion, expertise and experience in producing a Chenin Blanc true to their nature, the initiative encouraged camaraderie and info sharing amongst the role-players. The round table discussions are imperative as they help raise the profile of the area as well as promote superb quality wines from the Breedekloof Wine Valley,” says Breedekloof Wine & Tourism CEO, Melody Botha.
For more information contact +27.23 349 1791 or visit www.breedekloof.com.
Before this tasting Breedekloof was totally off my radar. So it was great to catch up with three Breedekloof guys, Pieter Cronje, De Wet Lategan and Attie Loew to hear about a new Chenin Blanc initiative in the region.
Breedekloof is a relatively undiscovered area. You reach it by going through Paarl, through the tunnel in the mountain, and then it’s the first region you get to as the valley opens out, before you get to Worcester and Robertson. It has one-fifth of South Africa’s Chenin plantings. It’s a narrow part of the valley so the mountains have an influence. It also has more rain than neighbouring regions (twice that of Paarl, three times that of Robertson). Soils are washed out sand and sandstone with pebbles.
It’s an old agricultural area, with vineyards being planted here since 1840. It’s now pretty much dedicated to vines. 90% of the farms are farmed by the owners, and 80% of these are third generation or older. There’s late bud break after cold winters, and harvesting is quite late, in the later part of March, under moderate conditions.
This Breedekloof Chenin initiative started last year. Participating wineries were asked to do something different, to expess Chenin’s different personalities. The only rule was that they had to make at least three barrels, the minimum required by competitions. So they did things like use older blocks, play with wild ferments, use skin contact, lees work and so on.
There are 25 wineries in the region, ranging from small producers to large co-ops. Nine took part, and these are their wines.
Deetleefs Reserve Chenin Blanc 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Old vines, 1300 bottles made. Textured and broad but still fresh with lovely white peach and pear fruit. Real finess here. Subtle creaminess and hints of cheese with nice texture and freshness. 92/100
Merwida Chenin Blanc 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Very taut and fresh with some tangerine and pear fruit, as well as some spiciness. Textured, and in need of some time for the oak to settle down. 91/100
Dasch Bosch Steen 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Lots of lees contact here, fermented and aged in old oak. Lovely complex marmalade, spice and pear aromatics. Has some nuts and honey on the palate. Real complexity here with some oxidative notes, and hints of cheese and herbs. 92/100
Goudini Cellar Mirabilis regis-filia Chenin Blanc 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Rich, bold and spicy with peach and pear fruit. Powerful and rich with some warmth from the alcohol (14.5% alcohol). A bit oily. 87/100
Botha Kelder Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc Bush Vine 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Nice spiciness. Lovely supple broad pear and peach fruit with nice texture and depth. Bold with nice fruit quality. 90/100
Bergsig Chenin Blanc Reserve 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Lovely nose of grapefruit and tangerine with sweet spicy herby notes. Textural and quite fine with a nice spiciness. Warm nutty notes and lovely depth, as well as a hint of vanilla. 92/100
Breëland Chenin Blanc Royal 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Complex and lively with tangerine, spice, lemon and apricot notes. Fresh and complex with nice pear and ripe apple fruit. Complex, lively and focused. 93/100
Opstal Estate Carl Everson Chenin Blanc 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
30 year old vines, wild ferment, old French oak. Lively and complex with nice pear and peach fruit showing some spiciness. Lovely density: warm but fresh with nice complexity and depth. 92/100
Lateganskop The Zahir 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
From 21 year old bush vines. Very complex with a herby, cabbagey edge and fresh tangerines and spice, as well as some lemon fruit. Complex, distinctive and bright with a vivid personality. 91/100
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com
Have you tried the Chenin’s in the area yet and what are your thoughts?