Chenin Blanc  
For the first time, South Africa has finally dominated this category, with a decent spread of wines from cheap to pricey. A watershed year for the Saffers, perhaps?

It might be the spiritual home for Chenin Blanc outside the Loire Valley but South Africa has struggled to take a really firm grip on this category over the last few years, with the only Gold in recent times going to New Zealand, and a lot of workmanlike, rather than inspiring, wines leaving the tasters a bit flat.

And while the judges were some way off singing the Hallelujah Chorus from the
roof of this year’s tasting venue, they were certainly happier with what they were seeing. So too, surely, were the South Africans, who finally did what we have expected from them all along and took every medal on offer.

Stylistically, the wines ran the gamut, from dry, tighter styles through to richer, more evolved wines. The tasters were pleased to see some more expensive, ambitious wines coming in for a change, although Roberto Loppi, for one, thought it was ‘easier
to find food-friendly styles at the cheaper prices, because some of the pricier wines were simply too complex and rich’.

The only Gold was just such a pricy wine, but, crucially, one that showed ‘good balance and [was] really silky’, as Charlotte Jonasson put it, while the ‘really honest’ Boschendal for less than £6 was reckoned to be a good budget option.

‘There’s a place for this and a price-point, too,’ said Ivan Dixon. ‘We’ve got one listed at £26 and that flies out.’

“Chenin can be a flexible friend, like Riesling, when it comes to food pairing, and it is definitely something that deserves a place on the list. ” Roberto Loppi, Hakkasan


Spier Private Collection Chenin Blanc 2009, Stellenbosch, South Africa
£12.49 @ PLB Group
SWA 2011 Gold List Dense and spicy with a varied fruit base of Golden Delicious apples, pear, baked fruit plus vanilla – even toffee apple – and a lovely depth. ‘Silky acidity, good balance and mouthfeel,’ said Charlotte Jonasson. ‘Long finish and lovely balance,’ said Ivan Dixon.


Boschendal le Pavillon Chenin Blanc/Viognier 2010, Coastal Region, South Africa
£5.88 @ Matthew Clark
Plenty of complexity for the price. Fresh and lively citrus-infused nose, this has a ripe, beautifully textured palate, with citrus, pear and melon flavours and a good finish.


Circumstance Chenin Banc 2009, Stellenbosch, South Africa
£7.68 @ Boutinot
Complex, lively, taut citrus fruit with some toastiness and struck match reduction,’ said Jamie Goode. Good length, but acidity was felt by some to be ‘a touch bracing’.

The Mentors Chenin Blanc 2008, South Africa
£11.05 @ Cavendish Wines
Lovely rich melon and pear nose, this is rich and bold with a balanced palate. ‘Clean and
fresh with a touch of honey and toast, creamy in the mid-palate,’ said Kyri Sotiri.

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

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