Disappointed by the Chenin Blanc-based Bellingham Fair Maiden 2008 recently (see here) and hoping to restore my faith in what producer-wholesaler DGB was capable of with the Bellingham brand, I opened a bottle of Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2008 recently.
The Bernard Series replaced “The Maverick” as a tier in the Bellingham range and sees winemaker Niël Groenewald working with the best grapes he can get his hands on.
The 2008 is very much a blockbuster, although I don’t mean this in a pejorative sense at all. Grapes were sourced from four blocks with an average age of 40 years, these situated across Agter-Paarl, Bottelary and Durbanville. In the cellar, partial whole bunch pressing was used before 12 months in French oak, 50% new.
To use Chenin Blanc Association terminology, the wine is very much in the “rich, ripe and wooded” style with an alcohol by volume of 14.5%, a relatively high residual sugar of 8.1 g/l, a total acidity of 6.22 g/l and a pH of 3.44. Groenewald’s thrown everything but the kitchen sink at it and it pretty much works. I find the oak sits a little apart at the moment but that is to be hyper-critical.
So what conclusions to draw in comparing Fair Maiden 2008 with The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2008? As both wines age, the single variety Chenin is increasingly emerging as the more satisfying. The primary motivation behind blending is surely to combine varieties with different but complimentary characteristics in order to achieve greater complexity but I fear that many of the Chenin blends that have come about in the last decade or so are an attempt to dolly up a variety that makes perfectly good wine on its own but punters find perennially unsexy.