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The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2011

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May the force be with you.

Yesterday a fascinating tasting of the different components that make up the The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc hosted by Bellingham winemaker Niël Groenewald.

He describes his ultimate Chenin as having 1) balance 2) clarity and purity of fruit, 3) seamless integration of oak, 4) layers of flavour, 5) minerality, 6) freshness, 7) fleshiness and 8) coated acidity. Talk about setting yourself exacting standards.

To achieve this, grapes from sites in Darling, Swartland, Durbanville, Bottelary and the Helderberg, the youngest vineyard already 43 years old. Groenewald says that when it comes to the Helderberg, it’s not a matter of rand per ton but rather the grower requiring R50 000 per hectare annually in order for the vines to stay in the ground. Recommended retail price for the 2011 vintage is R110 a bottle, posing the question: Do the sums work? “Yes,” says Groenewald. “We even make some profit”.

Over lunch, the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011 (none of the 2009 as it “sold quickly”). These wines are big in structure and full of character – not exactly for idle sipping.

2006: 16/20
Rich and full but fruit perhaps starting to fade. Yellow peach, honey and spice notes.

2007: 15.5/20
Very rich, thick textured with sot acidity. Certain buttery quality about it.

2008: 17/20
Dramatic. Big but balanced with layers of flavour, bright acidity. Good intensity, very satisfying.

2010: 15.5/20
Less forceful than other vintages. Lacks fruit concentration, rather shy.

2011: 16.5/20
More medium bodied with good focus and freshness. White peach, pear, hint of vanilla and spice.

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