Solid, rather than great wines, and a return to dominance for South Africa
South Africa ought to own this category in the same way that Argentina owns Malbec. And while last year, the honours were split between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, this year the Saffers more or less took control, with two of the four Shortlisted wines.
As usual, prices were at the utilitarian end of the scale, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly for a punter-friendly wine like Chenin, but it makes you wonder why so few people are really pushing the envelope with a grape variety that clearly has potential. Certainly pretty much all the wines sent in here were reasonable, with decent fruit and OK balance, but there were no real stand-out wines, which explains the lack of contenders on the Gold List.
Still, compared to a couple of years ago, the overall standard was higher, with few really out-of-balance efforts.
‘There was a deftness of touch here which augurs well,’ said a cautiously optimistic Nigel Lister, formerly of Asia de Cuba.
Esk Valley Black Label Chenin Blanc 2008, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
£5.66 @ Hatch Mansfield
A good red apple-skin nose with some lanolin notes behind. Lemony finish. Quite commercial, but good.
Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc Barrel Fermented 2008, Stellenbosch, South Africa
£5.89 @ Matthew Clark
Oily quince and damp sheep’s wool, this is rich and full with a big expressive stone-fruit palate and an apple sauce finish.
Dry Creek Chenin Blanc 2007, Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, USA
£6.71 @ Bibendum Wine Ltd
Quite a lean, restrained nose of white pepper and acacia, it opens up with time to give a minerally, appley depth.
Chenin Blanc 2008, Cederberg, South Africa
£7.25 @ H&H Bancroft Wines
Very mineral and flinty (one taster had it as ‘blue cheese’!) with quince, camomile and spice. ‘Zesty, with lots of freshness,’ said Olivier Gasselin.