For a number of years I have attended the Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge, sponsored by Standard Bank, but had to decline the awards earlier this week, held at Delaire Graff, due to travel. I received the media release, announcing the Top 10 Chenin Blanc wines.  

A total of 136 entries was received, an increase of almost 10% compared to 2016. Five judges tasted  all wines blind, and out of a short-list of  33 wines, the final ten winners were selected:

Cederberg Private Cellar Five Generations Chenin Blanc 2015 (debut): R220

DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016: R350

Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut): R130

Nederburg Heritage Heroes The Anchorman Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut): R150

Perdeberg Winery The Dry Land Collection Courageous Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016: R86

Spice Route Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut): R110

Spier Wines 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2016: R185

Stellenrust 52 Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016: R200

Stellenrust 51 Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2015: R500

Windmeul Kelder Chenin Blanc Reserve 2016 (debut): R80

The five judges were the following:

• Cathy van Zyl MW (chairman)

• Richard Kershaw MW (winemaker)

• James Pietersen (retailer, Wine Cellar)

• Tinashe Nyamudoka (sommelier, The Test Kitchen)

• Lauren Buzzeo (managing editor and tasting director, Wine Enthusiast)

• Associate judge: Marlvin Gwese (sommelier, Cape Grace)

‘Each of the wine producers received a prize of R25000 for the producer that must, in terms of the competition regulations, be used “to reinforce economic and social benefits in the workplace”, said Willie du Plessis, Executive Head of Business Banking for the Western Cape of Standard Bank.  ‘That producers from so many wine-growing areas entered their wines and that a good balance of boutique, privately-owned, co-operative and larger-scale commercial players took part, is testimony to the growing importance being accorded Chenin Blanc by the local industry’.

‘We want the accolade to have meaning for the workers as well as the brand owners as we are honouring their collective contributions’, added Du Plessis.

‘The very narrow margin in the scores between those who did and didn’t make the final cut reflects an exciting level of excellence in South African Chenins’, said Ken Forrester, Chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association. ‘It’s thrilling to see how many local winemakers are so clearly and creatively expressing the world-class potential of this varietal’

The Association has been running the annual Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge since 2014, and is continuously working to raise the reputation of Chenin Blanc, our country’s most widely planted varietal. These efforts have played a key role in establishing the country’s quality credentials amongst international wine critics, writers, and other influencers in recent years, with Chenin Blanc now widely recognised as South Africa’s calling card, said the media release.

The winning wines, produced by nine cellars, came from seven wine-growing areas – the Cederberg, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Swartland, Tygerberg, Durbanville and Darling.

Five of the winning wines were produced from vines 40 years and older. This was not surprising, said judging chairman  Cathy van Zyl, given that 52% of all South African vines aged 35 and older are Chenin Blanc. ‘Seven of the 2017 winners come from vineyards older than 30 years and eight from vines at least 20 years’ old’, Van Zyl said.

She noted that this year marked the fourth time that Perdeberg has made it onto the Top 10 list, with consecutive vintages of its Dry Land Barrel Fermented Courageous Chenin Blanc. Spier had also appeared on the list every one of the four years but with different expressions of the varietal. Van Zyl also pointed out that interestingly, since the inception of the competition, just one unwooded wine had made it onto the Top 10 list.

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein