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Dornier Chenin Blanc 2010

Dornier winemaker JC Steyn.
Dornier winemaker JC Steyn.

Yesterday lunch at Bodega, the restaurant at Stellenbosch winery Dornier to sample winemaker JC Steyn’s three interpretations of Chenin Blanc.

First the entry-level Cocoa Hill 2010, selling for R45 a bottle from the farm. This wine includes own grapes as well as a portion from Bottelary and is unwooded. It comes across as very primary with clean fruit and crisp acidity. A pleasant, straightforward wine probably best suited as an aperitif.

Next Dornier Chenin Blanc 2010, the second ever vintage made from grapes sourced from Lammershoek in the Swartland. This wine was fermented half in tank and half in fourth-fill barrels, and spent five months on the lees. This is smart stuff with pure fruit and bright acidity. There’s plenty of peach and apricot flavour right now but it should only develop further complexity with time. Price per bottle: R75.

On to the winery’s flagship white,  Dornier Donatus White 2009, a combination of 77% Chenin Blanc (some from Bottelary, some from Swartland) and 23% home-grown Semillon, which spent eight-and-a-half months in 300-litre barrels, 30% new.  Total production is 1000 cases and it costs R120 a bottle. Although Steyn says it has a loyal following and sells out quickly after release, I have to say I find it perplexing, the peach and apricot flavours of the Chenin somehow not complimented by the citrus and herbal edge of the Semillon (see previous post here).

You have a sense that bottle maturation would serve this wine well and Steyn confirms this saying that he is currently drinking the 2007 vintage and only starting to have a look at the 2008. He also says that he inherited the wine when he joined Dornier in 2005, the blend originally including some Sauvignon Blanc as well, which he felt didn’t contribute positively and therefore removed.  Tasting the 2009 now, the Semillon component seems particularly demonstrative, and you wonder it might make a pretty good single-variety wine but perhaps not a sound business decision as Semillon is a difficult sell.

Part of yesterday’s exercise was comparing the wines with different courses prepared by Bodega chef Neil Norman. The Donatus White 2009 didn’t seem to work with anything that well, until the final dish of the day, white asparagus done three ways: Spanish crudo with Hollandaise, smoked trout and blini with Sauce Vierge and horseradish mayonnaise and hazelnut oil with fresh rocket). Finally, the particular flavours of the wine were offset to good effect by the particular flavours of the vegetable. The Dornier Asparagus Festival lasts to the end of the month and on the basis of yesterday is well worth experiencing.


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