As featured in the February issue of Business Day WANTED:
Is there a place for ultra-premium Chenin Blanc from South Africa? Jean Engelbrecht, owner of Rust en Vrede, the Stellenbosch property famed for its reds, recently launched Donkiesbaai Steen 2011 selling for R200 a bottle from the farm. “White wines are not what we do but I think Chenin is making a big comeback,” he says.
“Donkiesbaai” refers to the Engelbrecht’s West Coast holiday home (grapes are from nearby Piekenierskloof) and “Steen” is the Afrikaans, slightly retro term for Chenin Blanc. Only partially oaked, the wine shows clean, pure fruit and a good line of acidity. It’s an extremely elegant offering which should reward keeping for at least five years (score: 17/20).
The trailblazer when it comes to high-quality, high-price Chenin is, of course, The FMC Forrester Meinert Chenin from Ken Forrester Wines. It has won numerous accolades since the maiden 2000 vintage including the 2005 and 2006 being rated 5 Stars in Platter’s and has acquired a loyal following who don’t hesitate to pay the relatively steep asking price. Production of the current-release 2009 amounted to 1 000 twelve-bottle cases with it selling for R260 a bottle. Expect a wine which is complex, rich and full with layers of flavour including peach, apricot, honey and spice (score: 18/20).
Another contender at the top end of the market is DeMorgenzon, the Reserve 2009 among influential US magazine Wine Specator’s top 100 wines of last year. The Reserve 2010 sells for R160 a bottle and is possibly even more opulent and expressive than the FMC. Ripe peach through tropical fruit, tangy acidity and well judged oak (score: 17/20).
Many experts consider local Chenin among the world’s greatest wines but getting the public to accept this has been a long and agonising process. Here, though, are three wines demonstrate the old adage that the first step to becoming a winner is to act like one. Drop some cash on them and you, too, can have that winning feeling. DeMorgenzon Tel 021 881 3030; Ken Forrester Wines 021 855 2374; Rust en Vrede 021 881 3881.