As I’m writing the title I’m thinking it’s a bit of a stupid post really. South Africa produces a lot of Chenin Blanc from all over the country. Some are from premium producers, some not-so premium. Point is the tastes, textures, and general variety of wines is probably that little bit more than me writing a small blog post is going to be able to handle.
Never fear though, I’ve thought this one through. Basically what I wanted to do with this week is to talk about the entry level Chenin Blancs from South Africa. It’s what most people will access to at their local shops, and also will fit everyone’s budget. If you fancy going for some premium wines this week then that’s fantastic, please do let us all know how you get on.
For the entry level Chenin Blancs we’re going to be looking again at the catch-all labeling term of the Western Cape. It just means that bigger producers can grow their grapes all over the place and be a picky enough at harvest and blending to produce a “brand taste” year after year. It’s not going to be very distinctively from any particular region, but it is going to taste like a South African Chenin Blanc, which is kind of what we’re after.
One or two of the wines I’ve picked from above, for example the Rachel’s from Majestic Wine, come from smaller areas like the Coastal Region. They’ll be a touch more distinctive, so could be really interesting to see if you can pick up on the differences.
Very quickly bit on Chenin Blanc then. It’s an all-rounder of a grape. That’s why it’s planted to great effect and great variety in its spiritual home of the Loire Valley in France. It can produce lots of different styles, including dry, sparkling, and sweet, and then fruity and savoury. It’s this versatility that made it ideal for South African growers as wine production expanded in the 1990s.
It’s a bit warmer down there, close to the equator, so expect stone fruit flavours of peach, apricot, maybe even mangoes. Barrel fermentation and ageing, as well as stirring in the lees are used to give more body and even the odd toasty oak flavours.
It’ll be interesting to see what you get.
Other posts in NWTW Week 15: