As results for the 2022 Decanter World Wine Awards start to be released, it was revealed that the Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2021 from Ken Forrester Vineyards was awarded a show stopping 97/100 points. Tasting a wine blind under competition conditions is always difficult but sometimes does throw up some unique results. As a previous panel chair for South Africa in 2020 and 2021, I know that to receive a 97 point score the wine would have to have been tasted two or three times by different judges as part of the thorough assessment process. So results cannot and should not be viewed as “flukes.”
I recently caught up in London with the legend himself, Ken Forrester, and we tasted the 2021 Chenin Blanc among other wines. Always a wine that represents outstanding quality for the money (circa £14-£15 per bottle retail), it remains one of the great “recession-busting” bargains of the South African wine industry. Imported into the UK by Enotria & Coe.
Ken Forrester Vineyards Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.
A wonderfully expressive Old Vine Chenin Blanc for the money with intriguing aromatic layers of rock salt and tangerine peel, white citrus, green fig, yellow grapefruit and green granny smith apple pastille. The palate follows with lovely glycerol layers of pear and white peach, apple bon bons and chalky cream soda melon notes, finishing with yet more salinity and subtle granitic minerality. A delicious wine with great intensity and concentration that will leave drinkers with a smile on their face! Drink now and over the next 8 to 10 years.
Most South African white wine lovers have probably heard of Ken Forrester’s excellent FMC Chenin Blanc which is widely regarded as a benchmark example nowadays. But his super premium Dirty Little Secret cuvee is a fascinating white wine made from a dry grown old bush vine Chenin Blanc vineyard planted in 1959 on decomposed granite soils situated at 650 metres above sea level facing the west coast and Elands Bay. Like the first two editions, this wine is a multi-vintage blend of older wines aged in old 400 litre French oak barrels that are then refreshed with a youthful current vintage. This third release incorporates wine from four vintages between 2017 and 2020.
Ken Forrester Vineyards Dirty Little Secret Three, WO Piekenierskloof, 13% Abv.
2.0g/l RS | 6.2g/l TA | 3.49 pH
This really is an impressive wine and on first taste reveals a balance, intensity and complexity that clearly surpasses the previous two editions bottled. The aromatics are vibrant and expressive with multidimensional hints of sweet yellow peaches, Seville oranges, tangerine peel, pineapple confit and apple purée. Both on the nose and palate, there is a bountiful mineral vein of stony granitic wet river pebble complexity that combines with electrically tart tangy acids and fleshy glycerol yellow orchard fruit nuances of peach, pineapple and tinned quince. Fabulous power and intensity together with unctuous sweet citrus fruit flavours on a honied, pithy finish. Dirty Little Secret Three is altogether more serious, more intricately assembled and more subtly restrained on the finish. Drink this classy wine on release and over 10+ years.
More than two decades on since the maiden vintage release of the FMC which was labelled as the Meinert Scholtzenhof Grande Chenin 2000, the 2020 is about to be released onto the market. Always a wine with a very distinctive personality, premium quality concentration and more often than not a subtle complexing hint of botrytis characteristics together with a hint of residual sugar, the FMC is a striking expression of Chenin Blanc that has earned itself a massive global following.
Produced primarily from a vineyard planted in 1974 with no trellis system, the vines are grown in the goblet method or as bush vines, with the vineyard producing very limited yields which are picked over multiple tries, with pickers passing through the vineyard 7 to 8 times over a 4-to-5-week window. The wine is then fermented with natural yeasts in large 400 litre French oak barrels and aged for 10 to 12 months before another barrel selection chooses the best lots for the final assemblage.
Ken Forrester Wines FMC Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.
6.1g/l TA | 9.4g/l RS | 3.67pH
Another bold and distinctive Chenin Blanc that shows a confident, rich, exotic bouquet of honey on warm buttered white toast, honeysuckle scents, apricot preserve and crystalised tangerine peel. On the palate there is a ripe glycerol mouthfeel that is simply bursting with sweet lemon and white citrus notes, green mango, papaya, quince and pithy orange marmalade. In true FMC style, the wine delivers some incredibly audacious flavours and complexity with a wonderfully viscous mouthfeel intricately balanced by fresh tangy acids, honied apricots, brioche and orange blossom nuances. The finish is intense and generous but also fresh and dry despite the wine’s hallmark RS. This is yet another benchmark Chenin Blanc effort from Ken Forrester Wines. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8+ years.
This famous winery is situated on the premium slopes of the Helderberg Mountains in the heart of South Africa’s most famous wine region Stellenbosch. Over the years the range of top quality wines from Ken Forrester has acquired a massive national following along with a bountiful amount of international acclaim with literally hundreds of awards and accolades amassed over time.
Ken Forrester’s philosophy has always been to create a range of handcrafted, individually made wines that suitably complement a wide variety of lifestyles and food styles especially with the restaurant trade being another industry very close to Ken’s own heart.
The Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2019 from Ken Forrester Wines is an impressive allrounder that exhibits concentration, intensity and depth. The grapes come from 39-year-old vines which are fermented in both tank and barrels of which approximately 20% were new, followed by a further maturation of circa nine months before bottling.
Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.
This pretty Chenin Blanc shows fabulous tension and minerality from the start with complex aromatics of crunchy white peach, quince, yellow grapefruit and sweet green herbs. The palate is full and dense, tight knit but fresh and admirably chiseled with intense notes of green apple pastille, peach and white citrus. Glycerol and round, this wine shows very impressive purity, balance and focus. A really delicious mouth watering offering. Drink now to 2028+.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Ken Forrester’s iconic FMC is widely considered one of the country’s leading examples of old vine Chenin Blanc and is fermented and aged for 12 months in 400 litre French oak barrels creating a profound expression that is wonderfully rich and layered with ripe stone and tropical fruit flavours and just a subtle hint of botrytis on the finish.
Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.
The 2019 FMC Chenin Blanc is yet another monumental effort from Ken Forrester and co. Superbly rich, layered and wonderfully textured, this new release with an exotic RS of 8.9g/l boasts a complex aromatic profile with notes of honeysuckle, white peaches, warm buttered white toast with honey and an exotic hint of wet straw, dried herbs and mint leaf. Considered by many as one of the finest examples of old vine Chenin Blanc in South Africa, year in and year out, the 2019 expression boasts an opulent rich palate layered with hints of botrytis, fleshy textural yellow orchard fruits, intense apricot, nectarine, passion fruit and white peach purée together with a pronounced granitic minerality on the rich, long unctuous finish. Very impressive benchmark quality as you’d expect! Drink now to 2030+
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
The Dirty Little Secret first release made its mark in the premium Chenin Blanc category with its punchy price tag raising a few eyebrows but with its quality ultimately silencing the critics. The second edition changes to a 2016-2017 dual vintage blend made from grapes sourced from a very old dryland vineyard in the Piekenierskloof region planted in 1959. The wine making was handled as gently as possible using 7 x 400 litre barrels with the resulting wine bottled unfiltered and unfined.
Dirty Little Secret Chenin Blanc Two NV, WO Piekenierskloof, 14% Abv.
Not to be confused with the vastly different style of the FMC Chenin with its hints of RS and botrytis exoticism, the Dirty Little Secret is a serious, rich, dry and textural wine with aromatics of toffee apples, apple crumble, baked pears and subtle yeasty, bready nuances. The palate adds further notes of pithy tangerine, yellow peaches, old honey and bruised apples with a well rounded glycerol balance. But impressively, the finish remains taut, tight and mineral with a bright tangy acidity and a peachy, stony finish.