Yesterday I attended a fascinating tasting and lunch featuring an incredible array of iconic red and white wines. But tucked into the selection was a threesome of premium South African Chenin Blancs, made by some of South Africa’s hottest, most talented, rising star winemakers.
The flight consisted of the Patatsfontein 2015 Montagu Old Vine Chenin Blanc, the David & Nadia Skaliekop 2014 Swartland Chenin Blanc and the Johan “Stompie” Meyer Mother Rock Liquid Skin 2015 Chenin Blanc. Three vastly differing expressions of Chenin Blanc from three very individual, innovative winemakers.
More importantly, the three wines illustrated both the terroir versatility of the Chenin Blanc grape as well as the stylistic winemaking versatility present in South Africa. It is now impossible to pigeon hole Chenin Blanc within a generic context. The styles, expressions, and interpretations are so varied.
Chenin Blanc is now doing for South Africa, what Chardonnay has done so clearly for Burgundy in France. There is a style to suit all palates and a price point to suit all pockets. This diversity needs to be celebrated as it’s the fuel that continues to power the whole category forward internationally.
Patatsfontein Chenin Blanc 2015, Montagu
This Chenin Blanc ferment features a 40% portion with malolactic conversion and is then aged 11 months in old oak barrels. The nose bursts with lifted sweet white blossom, rich honeycomb, white peach, yellow citrus and vanilla pod spice. The palate is beautifully layered and elegantly textured with impressive concentration that grows as the wine sits in the glass. Light on its feet, there is a fabulous vein of acidity that melts into the fruit, harmonising beautifully with dusty mineral notes on the long, focused finish. Incredible class and precision, but oh so characterful all at once. A wine that is growing in stature and quality with each subsequent release. (Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
David & Nadie Skaliekop Chenin Blanc 2014, Swartland
Another standout wine from David Sadie. We all know the heights that have been reached with his 2015 single vineyard wines, but this 2014, from a vineyard planted in 1985 on shale soils yields a beautifully opulent, exotic nose of lemon oil, yellow peaches, honeysuckle, orange blossom, pithy lemon marmalade and dusty, chalky notes. This wine is full bodied, unctuous, richly textured and full flavoured with oxidative honey notes, sweet lemongrass, stem ginger and a long, leesy oak spice finish. A wine with plenty of gravitas. (Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Mother Rock Liquid Skin Chenin Blanc 2015, Swartland
This Chenin Blanc was sourced from an organic single vineyard on the outskirts of Malmesbury, planted with dry farmed bush vines grown on koffieklip, decomposed granite and clay soils. Grapes underwent 9 weeks of skin contact and the result is a truly impressive wine style. A deep golden orange colour, the wine has complex aromas of orange blossom, exotic fruits, apricot, old honey, barley sugar and grey slate liquid minerality. Such a vibrant, pithy acidity with plenty of freshness and depth on the palate. This wine is seriously complex and structured, but also incredibly drinkable. Not perhaps for novices, but to say this wine is some sort of acquired taste would not be doing the wine justice. Majestically executed within its style. (Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)