Are we making the most of Chenin Blanc? It may seem a strange question to ask at a point when the variety is receiving the most positive media coverage it has done in the past 20 years but that was the precisely the theme of a recent Cape Winemakers Guild technical tasting presented by Niels Verburg of Luddite Wines. It should not be forgotten that plantings have dwindled significantly, once over 60% of the national vineyard but now down to only 18%.
To explore where SA top-end Chenin is at, six pairs of wines, one leading local example and one from the Loire per pair, the wines tasted blind.
Here’s how I rated the 12 wines:
Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2011 – 96
Clef de Sol 2013 – La Grange Tiphaine Montlouis – 95
L’Insolite 2013 – Thierry Germain Saumur – 94
Moulin Touchais 2002 – Coteaux du Layon – 93
Teddy Hall Wines CWG Hendrik Biebouw Reserve 2012 – 93
Cartology 2011 – 92
Coulée de Serrant 2012 – Nicolas Jolly Savenniéres – 92
Le Mont Sec 2012 – Huet Vouvray – 92
The FMC Forrester Meinert Chenin 2012 – 91
Mosse 2013 – Anjou – 90
Raats Old Vine 2013 89
Rudera CWG Noble Late Harvest 2002 – 86
The Hope Marguerite 2011 from Bot River producer Beaumont was my wine of the evening as it was for most in attendance. In most instances, it was quite easy to tell the South African wines from the French but with the elegant and composed Beaumont poured next to the somewhat wild and woolly Coulée de Serrant from biodynamic pioneer Nicolas Jolly, it was more tricky.
In discussion, a lot of winemakers remarked on the difference in the acidities of the South African wines compared to the French wines, the latter showing more integration. For me, however, what was even more marked was how technically correct the South African wines were in contrast to the French – I reflected that while the South African winemaking felt overly rigorous (perhaps stemming from the over-riding concern of finding market acceptance) some of the French winemaking appeared not rigorous enough!