The showcases put on by the Chenin Blanc Association every six months or so are a good idea in principle. They take the format of a formal tasting for media of a selection of members’ wines suited to the upcoming season – rich and ripe for winter; light and fresh for summer. The showcases serve the purpose of keeping Chenin top of mind, and presuming a decent selection on each occasion, bolstering the variety’s credentials. When Summer Showcase 2014 took place yesterday, however, it unfortunately felt like a step backwards rather than forwards.
For one thing, too many wines. There were 25 wines on show, and without wishing to be patronising, I got the impression that the uninitiated were often struggling to make meaningful distinctions between one wine and the next or at least one flight and the next.
That so many wines end up being on display is surely due to the association trying to keep as many of its 100-plus members happy – the 25 wines presented were apparently selected from “over 60” submissions and while it’s encouraging that there is so much commitment to the cause from producers, the association needs to bring focus to bear.
Yesterday’s shortcomings were made worse because not only were there too many wines, there were too many that weren’t up to scratch. A lot of the wines were unwooded or lightly wooded yesterday and appeared excessively neutral and dilute – this, I would argue, is precisely the sort of Chenin that those who have championed the category over the last decade or two have tried to demonstrate is NOT the variety’s fundamental character.
My stand-out wine of the day was the Jordan 2013 (R95 a bottle). White and yellow peach and a subtle leesy quality on the nose and palate. Lovely fruit purity and zippy acidity before a really long finish. It was barrel-fermented and matured for seven months in 228-litre second and third-fill French oak, which might suggest a wine a bit too demanding for pool-side quaffing but I at least would be happy to give it a try.