The back label of this wine says it all. It starts by proclaiming … “Chenin Blanc is a relatively rare varietal in our area of Stellenbosch, but the higher, cooler slopes and granite soils are well suited to producing an intense, mineral style.” We are of course talking about the Jonkershoek Valley, a Ward of Stellenbosch more famous for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah than Chenin Blanc. But with some super famous Chenin Blanc wines like Mev. Kirsten from Sadie Family Wines, Ian Naude’s Old Vine Series Chenin Blanc and Chris Alheit’s Nautical Dawn all coming from various other top Wards of Stellenbosch, the potential for producing block buster Chenin Blanc wines around Stellenbosch is unquestionable.
Self-taught American cellarmaster Jose Conde (who’s married to the owner Hans Schroder’s eldest daughter) first attempted making wine in 2000, and he chose to experiment with his favourite grape, Cabernet Sauvignon. As luck would have it, his father-in-law Hans Schroder farmed arguably the best Cabernet grapes in the region. Made with basic equipment and using traditional methods, the maiden vintage yielded just 2,400 bottles, but against the odds and to everybody’s surprise the wine went on to win 5-stars in the Platters Wine Guide, rated 92/100 points in Wine Spectator, and was selected by UK wine writer Oz Clarke as one of the Top 20 Wines of the Year. I remember this wine very well as I was one of the first wine merchants in the UK to buy and sell it in the early 2000s. And a cracker it was too!
Today, the team at Stark-Conde includes the prodigiously talented winemaker Rüdger van Wyk who creates fine wines using minimal intervention in the cellar. With vineyards ranging in elevation from 150 to 600 metres above sea level, the Stark-Conde estate offers some incredibly fine red wines of distinct character and sense of place and this new 2021 Chenin Blanc is no different. The winery also produces a well known white field blend which I look forward to tasting and reviewing soon.
Monk Stone Chenin Blanc gets its name from the large boulder which punctuates the organically grown, high-altitude vineyard block at Stark-Conde. This bush-vine Chenin Blanc vineyard is planted along dramatic terraces which were sculpted to prevent rain erosion. The wave and ripple patterns formed by these terraces, together with the large boulder, recall a traditional Japanese rock garden, and hence the name “Monk Stone”.
Stark-Conde Monk Stone Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.
7.6 g/l TA | 3.10 pH
A beautiful rendition of Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc that initially shows a youthful reserve before slowly opening up with aromatics of yellow orchard fruits, granitic minerality, dried green herbs, tangerine peel, green pear and saline oyster shell maritime hints. The minerality and salinity are front and foremost on the palate that shows all the classic 2021 vintage characteristics of purity, clarity, freshness and intensity. Loaded with electric tension, vibrantly fresh acids, the wine reveals a tart juicy green fruited melon concentration and again, an abundance of pithy minerality and rock salt salinity on the persistent finish. Deft winemaking on display here complemented by exceptional vintage quality. Drink this on release and over 8 to 10+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
The wines of Stark-Conde are available to trade and consumers from their UK importer:
https://www.museumwines.co.uk/product/stark-conde-monk-stone-chenin-blanc-south-africa-2021 for £24.99 per bottle.