Prescient Chenin Blanc Report 2020: Top 10

By , 18 June 2020

Comment

16

Introduction

The inaugural Chenin Blanc Report convened by Winemag.co.za and sponsored by multinational financial services company Prescient is now out. There were 88 entries from 57 producers and these were tasted blind (labels out of sight) by a three-person panel, scoring done according to the 100-point quality scale.

About the category

Chenin Blanc is South Africa’s most planted variety by far with 17 103ha in the ground at the end of 2019, this equivalent to 18.6% of the national vineyard. In addition, the variety makes up 52.6% of the country’s 3 505ha that are 35 years or older. It is extraordinarily versatile, capable of producing wines in all manner of styles and at all levels of the market.

DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch.

Top 10

The 10 best wines overall were as follows:

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Cape Town 2018
DeMorgenzon Reserve 2018
Lievland Old Vine 2019
Mulderbosch Steen op Hout 2019
Raats Family Wines Eden High Density Single Vineyard 2018
Schultz Family Wines Skeleton Bay 2019
Simonsig Chenin Avec Chêne 2017
Stellenrust 2019
Villion Henning 2018
Vrede en Lust Kogelberg 2017

What areas to the fore?

Out of the top 10, five were from Stellenbosch and one each from Bot River, Cape Town (Durbanville), Elgin and Paarl. The Schultz Family Wines Skeleton Bay 2019, designated as W.O. Western Cape sees grapes combined from both Paarl and Somerset West.

What does top Chenin Blanc go for?

The average price of the top 10 this year is R247.30 a bottle with Stellenrust 2019 the most affordable at R68 a bottle.

In-depth analysis

To read the report in full, including key findings, tasting notes for the top wines and scores on the 100-point quality scale for all wines entered, download the following: Prescient Chenin Blanc Report 2020

Shop online

Johannesburg boutique wine retailer Dry Dock Liquor is offering all wines in the top 10 for sale – buy now.

Video

Comments

16 comment(s)

  • Donald1 July 2020

    Surprised that there were only 88 entries for what is widely accepted to be our strongest category? Maybe its time to look at the cost of entry Winemag and to employ some more innovative ways of getting more producers to enter their wines? There are some big name producers who are so principled they’ll never enter competitions or think they don’t need to (maybe they are worried they won’t score as highly as their lofty reputations demand) but I can’t help think that there are loads of hidden gems out there that a report like this is designed for. Particularly in a category like Chenin where there are so many wines produced in a range of styles and prices.

  • johan small-smith24 June 2020

    For me the standout wine is the Stellenrust Chenin at R70ish per bottle. That is 10 times cheaper than some of the other stars in the tasting. Incredible value. And to think they have two “reserve” wines the 54 and the Mothership in their stable! Lord knows how good they must be!!

    • Kwispedoor24 June 2020

      At 91 and 92 points, their reserve wines are actually not quite as good as the entry level ones, Johan – according to the report anyways. Blind tastings by experts are interesting and not without value, but they are far from an accurate science. One of the good points of this tasting is that it highlighted a great value wine. It has been true of this particular wine for quite a few vintages now (and they mature quite nicely for a few years if you lay them down).

      • Christian Eedes24 June 2020

        Hi Kwispedoor, I think the Stellenrust 2019’s relatively better showing in this tasting compared to the Old Bushvine 2018 and 54 Barrel Fermented 2018 raises some topical stylistic issues (rather than simply being about quality). The standard label impresses on account of its fruit purity, energy and elegance whereas the two more ambitious wines are all about richness and oiliness of texture…

        • Kwispedoor24 June 2020

          Or were the stylistic issues raised before the tasting, or at least before finally rating the wines, Christian?

          Everybody that knows me, knows that I’ll take fruit purity, energy and elegance over richness and oiliness in a wine, any day of the week. However, good wine is made in a wide variety of styles, even though better wine is perhaps more easily found within certain styles. Over time, wine report entries may lose (have lost?) variety and volume as unfavoured styles are rather just not entered.

          The inherent vagaries of any wine tasting was part of my point about the Stellenrusts and on any given day I might very well have agreed with the panel on the ratings as I haven’t tasted any of the three wines under discussion – considering vintage. I do indeed think the fact that some producers think a flagship wine needs to be made from riper fruit, be more heavily worked in the cellar and put in newer wood for longer, is lamentable. But that’s not the other part of the point that I was hinting at. I just think it’s not quite right to discuss stylistic issues before a tasting. Quality should be the only yardstick when these kinds of tastings are undertaken, IMHO.

          If the panelists didn’t discuss stylistics, my point regarding that becomes moot, of course.

          • Christian Eedes25 June 2020

            Don’t really want to draw this discussion out except to say 1) that while stylistics can’t ever be ignored outright, the panel always tries hard not to unduly favour one style over another and 2) given the depth of Chenin Blanc, it is quite possible to conceive of two or three other equally plausible line-ups of winners in addition to the official top 10.

  • Marius Small-Smith19 June 2020

    The Stellenrust, de Morgenzon and Eden Chenins are consistently in our top tier Chenins, and nice to see Simonsig there. I am surprised that wines such as Sadie, Mullineaux, Alheit, David and Nadia ( all Tim Atkin favorites) and even Hope Marguerite does not feature

    • Christian Eedes22 June 2020

      Hi Marius, Entry into the tastings that form the basis of these reports costs R950 per wine and participation is at the discretion of the individual producer – Sadie and the others you mention were not in the line-up.

  • Top Wine SA19 June 2020

    Stellenbosch 5, Bot River 1, Elgin 1, Paarl 1, Swartland 0… Some of the leading WO Swartland Chenin producers apparently not confident enough to submit their wines for assessment in Winemag Report, while top Stellenbosch cellars triumph yet again…

  • Larry jacobs19 June 2020

    Great new initiative! Well done to all the top producers – especially to Mulderbosch, of course. It seems only like yesterday that I concocted the label name ‘Steen op Hout’ . Chuffed to see it still doing so well .
    But mostly chuffed to see that the ‘average’ price for a good bottle of SA chenin is nearly R250
    High time. In the global context. You’re all easily worth it!

  • Udo Göebel18 June 2020

    I am quite sure that tasting was done honest if you place Vrede en Lust Kogelberg 2017 and Mulderbosch Steen op Hout 2019 on top of wines like Kaapzicht 1947 or Opstal Carl Everson 2018.
    But forgive me when I don’t take this too seriously 🙂

    Too bad that most of the top Chenin’s did not compete

    Not sure why there are no score’s for the Top Ten but you give them for the others?

    • Christian Eedes18 June 2020

      Hi Udo, Glad you are feeling better. Our annual tasting programme going forwards will culminate in a gala dinner where the ratings on the 100-point quality scale for all the Top 10 wines will be revealed and the individual best wine per category will receive an award.

  • Duncan18 June 2020

    Great celebration of chenin.

    I’d be curious to know more about the judging criteria. While I yield to no one in my enjoyment of the Mulderbosch Steen op Hout, I admit to surprise at seeing it in the same bracket as DeMorgenzon Reserve

    • Christian Eedes18 June 2020

      Hi Duncan, The panel tried hard not to promote one particular style or aesthetic over another. The dichotomy between “freshness” and “bigness” that we all tend to latch on to is simplistic and ultimately not that useful – fine wine has that tendency to become ever more detailed and less able to be analysed in binary terms you more look at it. The DeMorgenzon Reserve 2018 is power-packed but the 2019 vintage of Mulderbosch Steen Op Hout is certainly not short of richness, the prices of the two wines as an indication of respective quality particularly misleading!

    • Adam Mason19 June 2020

      Hi Duncan,
      I love your steely resolve. Having earned my stripes at Mulderbosch and recently seen the light at DeMorgenzon my response to your comment is that Stellenbosch in general, and the Stellenbosch Kloof and Polkadraai demarcations in particular are home to the finest Chenin Blancs, and perhaps white wines made in the Cape. There is no substitute for great terroir, and if you look back through the previous and current winners, this area has consistently performed, regardless of pricepont. #drinkchenin!

      • Duncan19 June 2020

        Thanks for the insight, Christian

        @Adam: thanks for those comments. I should clarify I was never questioning the quality of the Steen op Hout, which I love . Rather, as I think Christian’s reply implicitly recognises, the SoH is ‘smaller’ and less grandiose than the DMZ reserve (and less complex than the Mulderbosch Single Vineyard chenins) the and it was surprising to see the two compared in this manner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Like our content?

Show your support.

Contribute