Friday’s Cultivar Focus shines a spotlight on disrupting Chenin Blanc, the workhorse grape previously used for blending or to build the brandy industry locally. Times have changed and in recent decades the reputation globally for SA Chenins has turned positive. There are several reasons for the increase in attention but mostly it comes down to Chenin being planted in many locations with differing terroir characteristics and the vineyards were established many years ago as it was the grape of choice for the big business Co-ops. The older vineyards offer a more distinctive and intense flavour profile, reflecting the site’s specific conditions with SA boasting the most diverse plantings in the world.
Chenin is extremely versatile in nature and very responsive to it’s terroir making it very expressive in the bottle. Combine these factors with the relaxed local Wine Industry (SAWIS) rules and regulations for cultivars, allows for a very exciting and unique situation to produce a diverse range of wine styles. Cape winemakers are able to craft interesting blends and experiment with natural and orange styles of Chenin Blanc along with the light, fresh and fruity or oaked, complex and rich styles.
Chenin Blanc is a versatile food pairing wine, a typical profile will be broad on the mid-palate with good weight and texture. Golden Delicious apple acidity with zesty tropical fruit flavours, orange blossom floral notes and a fresh savoury finish allows a perfect pairing with Pasta with Lemon and Lavender Cream Sauce.