Donkiesbaai Steen 2011

March 17, 2014
by Christian
in What I Drank Last Night
with 11 Comments
Niche product.

Niche product.

The maiden vintage Steen 2011 under the Donkiesbaai label from Rust en Vrede’s Jean Engelbrecht launched at R200 a bottle and when it was reviewed on this blog almost exactly two years ago, I posed the question: “Is there a place for ultra-premium Chenin Blanc from South Africa?”

Back then, I thought the wine was “an extremely elegant offering which should reward keeping for at least five years” and scored it 17/20. It’s apparently not a fast-mover however as Liquor City Claremont is still selling it (at R199.99 a bottle)…

I picked up a bottle to see how it was doing and was again impressed. From a Piekenierskloof vineyard planted in 1979, a portion of the wine was fermented and matured for five months in old oak. The nose is very yeasty, almost malty but there’s a good core of fruit plus zesty acidity on the palate – peach upfront before a nicely savoury finish. It’s a well-balanced, subtle wine but I fear most punters who are good for R200 on a bottle of SA white are going to buy Chardonnay.

Score: 90/100.

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  1. SmirrieJune 2, 2014 at 3:54 pmReply


    Did anyone of you tasted their Pinot Noir 2013 yet ?

    • ChristianJune 3, 2014 at 4:47 pmReplyAuthor

      Not yet. Will try to get my hands on a bottle and report back.

      • SmirrieJune 5, 2014 at 6:46 am

        Thx looking forward to it.

  2. Karl LambourMarch 17, 2014 at 11:40 amReply


    You and I should share a bottle of Moulin Touchais. Shame, they rely heavily on residual sugar for character too. But its quite nice to drink. Take me up on the offer please.

    • Hennie @ BatonageMarch 17, 2014 at 2:24 pmReply

      I know Moulin Touchais very well Karl. Have had many vintages and enjoy it for what it is.

      • KwispedoorMarch 17, 2014 at 4:50 pm

        There’s arguably some restraint to the fantastic Moulin Touchais as well – it’s got a much lighter feel than most wines around 80-odd g/l sugar. Different kettle of fish, though, than the Donkiesbaai (a bit like comparing Vin de Constance with Thelema Muscat de Frontignan).

        I’m not sure if Hennie’s comments were partly aimed at this, but it’s apparently a pretty wide-spread tactic used by winemakers in SA to add a bit of sugar (in whatever form) after fermentation to supposedly “improve” the mouthfeel/balance. Even if it’s still under 5 g/l, it’s still added. Personally, I prefer the more natural approach where you let the grapes and the fermentation process determine the balance/analysis. However, I guess I’m okay with it in certain circumstances if the fermentation process is arrested – for instance if the winemaker would prefer an off-dry Riesling at 12.5% alcohol, instead of a 14.5% brute.

        I’d also like to go on record that I will instantly disagree with any statement about Moulin Touchais, provided that this will encourage people to bring me to my senses by letting me tasting it.

      • KwispedoorMarch 17, 2014 at 4:51 pm


      • Hennie @ BatonageMarch 18, 2014 at 10:34 am

        Hi Kwispe

        Yep, it was pretty much what I meant. For me comparing Moulin Touchais with South African Chenin is hardly comparing apples with apples. I am very fond of local Chenin (especially the oaked, serious styles), it is probably the white I drink most of. But after a couple of glasses of SA Chenin with sugar around 5 or 6g/l, you get pretty tired of it. They are rich and textured, but they make my teeth ache. That said, there are some FANTASTIC local Chenin that are bone dry, yet still give the palate weight and texture. The Donkiesbaai comes to mind, so does Jean Daneel (under 2g/l I am assured by the wine maker), Remhoogte Honeybunch (2.9 g/l), Renaissance from Radford Dale (2.3 g/l) etc. (I am sure I am missing many brands, these are just off the top of my head) That said, I hardly hate De Morgenzon’s Chenin (4.33) and the FMC (6.1). I just can’t drink as much of it as I would like to. We had a 2005 De Morgenzon en Magnum the other day, and didn’t finish the bottle between 4 people. At 6.7g/l it got too much for us, as brilliant as it is.

  3. Hennie @ BatonageMarch 17, 2014 at 9:43 amReply

    I remember when I tasted this the first time I was impressed with the freshness and texture of the wine, but thought it lacked fruit expression. On a revisit I liked it a lot more, and what I like in particular is that it doesn’t rely as heavily on residual sugar for character as some of the other premium Chenins.

    • ChristianMarch 17, 2014 at 10:14 amReplyAuthor

      According to the Donkiesbaai website, abv is 13.73%, RS 1.5g/l, TA 5.9g/l and pH 3.42. Remarkably unflashy (especially given the personalities behind it).

      • Hennie @ BatonageMarch 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm

        It is exactly that restraint that appeals to me.

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