Yesterday we attended the Chenin Blanc Winter Showcase, held at Delaire Graff, at which 22 Chenin Blanc wines were presented for tasting. The feedback was that Chenin Blanc is ‘flying‘, and the recent announcement that Standard Bank is sponsoring the Association has added a lot of confidence for both the producers and even drinkers of Chenin Blanc. It was commented that the Chenin Blanc Association is the leader relative to other varietal associations in our country. Chenin Blanc is not only the largest wine cultivar in South Africa, but also is the ‘most dynamic wine category’ in South Africa, said Ken Forrester, Chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association.
Standard Bank was visible through its branding on banners, pens, note pads, and tasting note sheets. CEO Ben Kruger, head of Business Banking in the Western Cape Willie du Plessis, and Western Cape marketing executive Ntombi Kulati attended too. The total value of the sponsorship is R1,2 million over a three year period, starting at R300000 this year, and growing by R100000 each year. The contract contains an option to renew the sponsorship. The marketing muscle of the bank was seen as the major benefit for the Association’s winemakers, whose brands are likely to receive far more visibility in future. The sponsorship also contains prize monies for an annual Chenin Blanc competition, the top ten Chenin Blanc winemakers being rewarded with a R20000 prize each, which is to go to the development of their staff.
Jeff Grier of Villiera led the tasting, presenting a short summary of each of the Chenin Blancs we tasted in 6 flights, and asking each winemaker present to add some more detail about their wines. The roughly 100 Chenin Blanc Association members were invited to present their wine for evaluation by a panel, for the Winter showcase. It is very competitive, winemakers keen to receive the coverage which the Summer and Winter showcases offer them. Villiera’s Chenin was not offered for evaluation, as the vintage has already sold out, Grier said. The wines we tasted were the following:
* Flight 1: Perdeberg The Dry Land Collection Chenin Blanc 2013, Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2013 (winemaker Sebastian Beaumont), KWV The Mentors Chenin Blanc 2013 (Johan Fourie), and Kaapzicht The ‘1947’ 2013 (Danie Steytler)
* Flight 2: Delaire Graff Chenin Blanc 2013 (Morne Frey), Jordan Wine Estate Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2013 (Sjaak Nelson), Mulderbosch* Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc Block W 2013 (Adam Mason), De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2013 (Carl van der Merwe), and Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2013 (Mario Damon)
* Flight 3: Raats Family Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2012 (Bruwer Raats, not present), Opstal Carl Everson Chenin Blanc 2012, Jean Daneel Signature Chenin Blanc 2012 (Jean Pierre Daneel), and Stellenrust ’48’ Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2012.
* Flight 4: Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2012 (Johan Joubert), Graham Beck Bowed Head Chenin Blanc 2012 (Erica Obermeyer), and Ken Forrester The FMC 2012 (Ken Forrester)
* Flight 5: Bosman Optenhorst Chenin Blanc 2011 (Corlea Fourie), Cederberg Five Generations Chenin Blanc 2011 (Alex Nel), Simonsig Chenin Blanc Avec Chenê 2010 (Hannes Meyer), and Rudera De Tradisie Chenin Blanc 2009 (Riana Hall)
* Flight 6: Kanu Kia Ora 2012 (Ben Truter), and Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur 2010 (Johan Malan)
Recognising a marketing opportunity, Mulderbosch* very generously gave each writer a three-pack of its Single Vineyard Series Chenin Blanc 2013, three wines made from three blocks of Chenin Blanc (Blocks A, Block S2, and Block W). Grapes are destemmed, crushed, and pressed immediately. Free-run juice used only. Spontaneous fermentation. Ten months in French oak.
After the tasting at the main Delaire Graff restaurant, we went to Eat Out Top 20 Finalist Restaurant Indochine, its Asian restaurant. Each table had a mix of writers and winemakers, allowing us to discuss the Chenin Blancs further, and to ask questions of the winemakers. It also was an opportunity for each guest to choose which of the 22 Chenin Blancs he/she wanted to drink with each of the courses. We couldn’t get enough of the ‘bread’ platter, which consisted of wonton crisps, vegetable manchurians, and a more-ish Indonesian black bean sauce. At this stage the waiters did the rounds, asking for dietary requirements, and my request for any chilli to be removed from two dishes on the menu was quickly executed. The amuse bouche was a Green Thai farmed kob, which was served with charred broccoli, pickled broccoli stems, and black garlic.
The starter was a most beautiful presentation and unusual interpretation of Beef Tartare, which was rolled in daikon, and served with black bean sauce, ponzu sauce, pickled mushrooms, and wasabi mayonnaise. The main course was also unusual, in its combination of baby chicken and prawn (served to the other guests as tikka masala), with saffron cauliflower purée,and a fragrant potato salad. Side dishes of black rice and wok-fried garden vegetables were also offered.
The dessert was a medley of lime mousse, coconut sorbet, roast pineapple sorbet, a dried slice of pineapple, biscuit crumble, a coconut salad, and lime curd, a refreshing end to the lovely lunch, for which Chef Virgil Khan and his team had gone all out. Service of the waitron staff was attentive, plying us with Chenin Blanc wines to drink, and acceding to all our requests.
Forrester thanked Delaire Graff General Manager Johann Laubser for having sponsored the lunch, Nicolette Waterford for her excellent organisation of the event, and Ina Smith, who runs the Chenin Blanc Association.
The 2014 harvest has generated a good yield, despite the rain in January, and most winemakers are happy with it, Grier said. In a fun feedback session, each person present had to use one word to describe the Chenins tasted, with words such as Cape, elegant, national treasure, gripping, and fresh. Forrester concluded that the quality of the wines which had been selected for tasting was overwhelming, in a range of 87- 95/16 – 19. He was also excited by the young winemakers making Chenin Blanc, and congratulated the Chenin Blanc ‘rock stars’, describing them as ‘champion winemakers‘.
Disclosure: We received a gift pack of the three Mulderbosch* Blocks of its Single Vineyard Series Chenin Blanc 2013, as well as a bottle of Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2013. My son is the Manager of Indochine.
Chenin Blanc Association. www.chenin.co.za Twitter: @CheninBlancAsso
Indochine, Delaire Graff Lodge & Spa, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 885-8160. www.delaire.co.za Twitter: @DelaireGraff
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage