Among the various efforts over the last 10 or 15 years aimed at getting Cape Chenin Blanc considered among the world’s greatest wines, The FMC Forrester Meinert Chenin Blanc has played a pivotal role. It has won numerous accolades including the 2005 and 2006 being rated 5 Stars in Platter’s but most importantly it has acquired a loyal following who are prepared to pay a premium for it: 100 six-bottle cases of the maiden vintage 2000 (labeled as Meinert Scholtzenhof Grande Chenin) were sold on the Cape Winemakers Guild fetching an average price of R165 a bottle while production of the current-release 2009 amounted to 1 000 twelve-bottle cases with the wine selling for R260 a bottle.
Yesterday a fascinating vertical tasting of all vintages to date. It was intriguing to note that Ken Forrester of Ken Forrester Wines and winemaker Martin Meinert were largely unapologetic about it being more personality driven than reflective of a particular place. Neither of them seemed to have a problem referring to it as a “concept wine” in the sense that they deliberately set out to create something that might achieve icon status and they related at length how every year they go in pursuit of an agreed flavour profile. Meinert said that in order for it to have maximum consumer appeal, they consciously make it to be “very showy and forward”. He even went so far as to say that the “recipe” for making the wine has now been established: a particular block of vineyard on Forrester’s Stellenbosch property, the inclusion of a small portion of wine made from grapes infected with botrytis, spontaneous fermentation and maturation in heavy-stave 400-litre barrels.
And yet after tasting everything from 2009 back to 2000, I had a sense of a line running through all the wines that goes beyond what might be wrought by the hand of man and can only be explained by the vineyard, in this case an 8.26ha block planted in 1967 on predominantly sandstone and providing at least 80% of the grapes for FMC from year to year.
FMC’s reputation goes before it and I had high expectations before the tasting yesterday but frankly the wines were even better than I thought they might be. A wine of such high-profile inevitably has its detractors and it has been criticised in the past for being too concentrated, weighty and powerful but yesterday I was impressed by the complexity and age-worthiness that the wines showed. Hallmarks of the FMC for me were a lemon-lime fruit profile (as opposed to peach and apricot most local Chenin tends to show) as well as a savoury/saline quality on the finish. These wines are certainly big but not overblown and typically have great complexity.
Tasting notes in brief and my scores:
2009: Very expressive if primary. Well balanced. Has great promise. 18/20
2008: Good texture but already quite developed. Vanilla, honey and leesy flavours. 15.5/20
2007: Volatile acidity on the nose but not unappealing. Super-ripe fruit, tangy acidity. 16/20
2006: Very expressive on nose and palate. Great flavour concentration and texture. Finishes slightly “hot”. 17.5/20
2005: Waxiness and spice on the nose. Rich and concentrated, drinking well now. 17/20
2004: Nutty, slightly oxidised nose. Tertiary on the palate. 15/20
2003: Slight waxiness on otherwise shy nose. Medium bodied with lemon flavour and fresh acidity. More restrained than other vintages. 18/20
2002: Tropical fruit, honey, attractive developed notes on the nose. Viscous in texture, rich and full in structure. Very sexy. 17/20
2001: Shy nose. The palate shows green apple and some mushroom character. Fruit not much to the fore, sour acidity. Classically styled. 16/20
2000: Complex nose showing waxiness, mushrooms and marzipan. Juicy lemon-lime fruit, and a good line of acidity before a long, pithy finish. Great focus and balance. Profound. 19/20