When the Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc 2003 came up for review in the April 2008 issue of Wine magazine as part of a tasting of 5-year-old whites, it rated 5 Stars. Drinking it yesterday, the wine a further three years older, it not only remains superlative but I think it’s got another three to five years to go. A small quantity was held back and is currently selling from the tasting room from R100 a bottle.
Ken Forrester really is Mr Chenin Blanc making 700 000 litres of his Petit Chenin Blanc (a multi-regional blend with 20% consisting of grapes grown in the Riebeek-Kasteel area, 10% from Paardeberg and the rest Stellenbosch). The 2010 shows guava through to tropical fruit on the nose and palate, and is irresistibly juicy and fresh – R33 a bottle from the tasting room makes it a real bargain.
The Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc 2009 (to be known as Ken Forrester Reserve from the 2010 vintage) is a more serious proposition as its R65 a bottle price tag suggests (total production: 6 500 cases). From older vineyards, the wine is fermented naturally, 60% of it spending nine months in 400-litre French oak, 20% new. “We use oak simply to round off the rough edges. Oak is finishing school for wine,” says Forrester. On the nose peach, honey and spice while the palate is currently rather tight, its most notable characteristic being a good line of acidity. Full of potential, but probably shouldn’t be broached for at least another twelve months.
Finally The FMC Forrester Meinert Chenin 2009. Grapes from a 40-year-old single vineyard . Natural ferment, 12 months in oak, 100% new. “I’m looking for concentration and focus rather than big – simply make a big wine and another producer can always come along and make an even bigger one,” says Forrester. A complex nose showing honeysuckle, peach, apricot and spice; on the palate, excellent fruit expression and palate weight offset by fresh acidity. Abv 14%, residual sugar 6.2g/l, the lowest ever. Total production: 1 000 cases.
A high-profile wine like FMC is always going to have its detractors, not least in terms of those who find its ultra-rpemium price tag (R260 a bottle for the 2009) preposterous. However, FMC is rapidly becoming one of those wines that don’t require any kind of critical endorsement in order to retain its following, if it hasn’t already. It should firstly be considered a key reference point as to what South Africa is capable of at the top end of the market and secondly be celebrated for the vital role it has played in rehabilitating the image of Chenin Blanc, which after all remains South Africa’s most widely planted variety.