SA Chenin Blanc producers must have felt like characters in an episode of the Special Victims Unit TV sitcom in July last year after the savaging they received in the New York Times. Under the headline “a wine that isn’t what it used to be” Eric Asimov puts in his size 12s after tasting 20 SA Chenins. “The grape is not being celebrated here. These have veered into a drink, rather than a wine” was one of the nicest comments. Which is weird, as at the end of last year, the single SA entry in the Wine Spectator Top 100 was Wendy Appelbaum’s De Morgenzon Chenin Blanc 2009.
Poor Annette Badenhorst, point girl for WOSA in New York and one of the few WOSA operatives with an increased budget this year, up R20k to R4.25 million. Which will probably be spent in vain now as two thirds of SA exports Stateside are Chenin, according to Jacques Jordaan, who secured a listing for his Simonsig Chenin in the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station in the Big Apple.
Now while one swallow may not a summer make, damning SA Chenin on the evidence of twenty swallows is the height of irresponsibility. Was there a Hope Marguerite from Beaumont in the lineup? A Cederberg, Botanica, Cartology, Skurweberg, Delaire, De Trafford, Donkiesbaai, El Bandito, Cape of Good Hope, Mrs. Kirsten, Lammershoek, Oldenburg, Wildekrans, Reyneke… Heck, many a US athlete drank a glass of Olympic Chenin from Stellenrust after they’d won gold. It’s like drinking Entre deux Mers and calling Bordeaux a boring appellation.
We tasted ten times as many terroir Chenins as Eric, so here is our list of the top ten that he might want to try before he pronounces further on the most widely planted white grape varietal in SA.
Top Ten Terroir Chenin Blancs
1.) Boland Five Climates, 2012, Paarl
Pear drops, boiled sweets and apricots, floral nose and palate. R27 a bottle.
2.) Bosman Optenhorst, 2011, Wellington
Ripe tropical, pineapple, tangy peaches and cream. R160 a bottle.
3.) De Trafford, 2011, Stellenbosch
Completely different style: almond and lemon cheesecake, honey, persistent. R160 a bottle.
4.) Kasteelberg, 2010, Swartland
Floral nose, round palate, ripe oranges and herbal tea.
5.) Lutzville Diamond Collection (wooded), 2011, Namaqualand
Citrus pulp and zest, fresh grassy notes, ripe white fruits with hints of sweet pastry. Creamy, fresh and elegant. R33 a bottle.
6.) Oldenburg Vineyards, 2011, Stellenbosch
Grippy, long, fabulously creamy flavours, toasty oak, spicy minerality. R118 a bottle.
7.) Palesa, 2012, Worcester
Finely fruited, fresh grass and minerals, long finish. R33 a bottle.
8.) Rijk’s Touch of Oak, 2010, Tulbagh
Citrus, minerals and candied white fruits. R80 a bottle.
9.) Vrede en Lust Artisan, 2011, Elgin
Quince jam, citrus zest and spice. Huge concentration of flavour. A winner. R130 a bottle.
10.) Waterkloof Circumstance, 2011, Stellenbosch
Coffee mocha toasty sweet fruit, yeast, citrus and nuts. R90 a bottle.