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Yes, it’s odd to celebrate Chenin Blanc Day in South Africa, in winter. Yes, we should probably fight to change the date so that it’s more in line with warmer weather both here and in the northern hemisphere. Perhaps if we had initiated the #DrinkCheninDay, we as a country would have had control over which season to savour it in. Because it was only relatively recently, in 2014, that the first #DrinkChenin Day was celebrated on June 12th in New York and 10 other cities across the USA. This campaign was the brainchild of a group of USA retailers and sommeliers. The Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa joined the campaign in 2016. So, although the date was picked for the northern hemisphere summer, celebrating the freshness of Chenin Blanc, it actually put the spotlight on the diversity of Chenin Blanc.
As mentioned in a previous blog, “White Wine Winter Warmers” – there are a few styles of white wine that actually snuggle quite harmoniously with wintry days and Chenin is one of those. Especially when it comes to comfort food pairing. Chenin can be just as enjoyable during the South African winter with fuller styles ranging from sur lie to wooded styles and makes an ideal partner for warming winter meals as the acidity helps to cut through the richness of the heavier, fatty foods that we love so much.
The home of Chenin Blanc is of course the Loire Valley. In France. Chenin, rather than the more famous Sauvignon Blanc, is the most planted white grape variety in this large, straggling French region. Loire Chenin is distinguished by its high acidity, which makes it a good partner for creamy cheeses and richer fish dishes. That acidity is the reason it ages so well, but it’s also what makes it a little too assertive in its youth according to some pundits. So what about South African Chenin Blanc? According to Tim Atkin, “The only New World country producing world-class Chenin Blanc, albeit of a very different style to the stuff you’d encounter in the much cooler Loire Valley, is South Africa.”
'Chen-sational' praise from this world-renowned wine authority!
South Africa has always produced more white wine than red, and Chenin has been the Cape Winelands’ calling card since the days when it was known as ‘Steen’. The secret to its renaissance has been the old vines championed by the Old Vines Project, set up by viticulturist Rosa Kruger, which aims to identify and conserve vines that are more than 35 years old and give growers a financial incentive to not uproot them. Yields are low on old-vine Chenin, but the flavours are more complex and expressive, with an impressive capacity to age. This brings us to our first suggestion for this #DrinkCheninDay:
Quest Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2020 – R 180.00/bottle
The grapes selected for this award-winning Chenin Blanc are handpicked from a 35-year-old single vineyard in the heart of the Breedekloof Valley. This leads to quality grapes filled with intense fruit flavours. Distinctive floral notes and aromas of dried peach, citrus and lime with firm crisp acidity.
Another Old Vine Chenin we highly recommend comes from Stellenbosch:
Raats Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2019 - R 395.00/bottle
Grapes are sourced from three site speciﬁc 40+ year old vineyards in Stellenbosch. 50% of the wine was fermented and matured in French oak barrels to accentuate the soft, luscious ﬂavours and the other 50% was fermented in stainless steel to contribute a crisp acidity and bright citrus ﬂavours.
Plantings of the variety are enormous – it covers more than a fifth of the Cape’s vineyards, making South Africa the world’s most significant producer of Chenin. So what can you expect from our Cape Chenin Blanc? Well, Cape Chenin is made in a New World style. This means you still get decent levels of acidity, but the fruit flavours are much riper than the ones you find in the Loire. At its best, the variety shows notes of melon, mango, pineapple and grapefruit, rather than the much tauter apple and mineral characters of a Vouvray or a Savennières.
A chen-sational example of such wine is our very own:
Susan Stanleys Chenin Blanc 2020 – R 100.00/bottle
Hailing from the iconic Swartland Wine Region, this dryland unwooded Chenin Blanc showcases its terroir, boasting tropical notes with lively crisp acidity to finish off.
A further example of our New World talent here in South Africa for creating Chenin Blanc with a distinctive yellow apple, kiwi fruit and pineapple core, alongside notes of green melon and limes is the:
Raats Original Chenin Blanc 2021 - R 150.00/bottle
This wine is bursting with fresh fruit flavours and offers a zesty citrus flavour lingering on the palate, with a long mineral finish.
Whether you go for a crispy, Chenin Blanc with great acidity or one of the elegant Old Vine wines that offer flavours that are more complex and expressive, with an impressive capacity to age, you’re in the perfect hands here at Susan Stanleys. In fact, the Chen-sational Chenins we have on offer pair well with anything from seafood to crème brûlée.
Drink Chenin Day has become a highlight on the international wine calendar and one which truly shines the spotlight on South African Chenin Blanc, engaging millions of wine consumers across the world each year across industry events, at cellar doors and on social media. Be part of the day by following on social media with the #DrinkChenin
Facebook: Chenin Blanc Association
Remember, here at #SusanStanleysFineWines we have numerous styles of wine to match your every need this winter so browse here and find whatever your heart (and pocket) desires.
Oh, and HAPPY #DRINKCHENIN BLANC DAY!!