South Africa banks on a bright future for Chenin Blanc

(Left) Boekenhoutskloof 2013 The Wolftrap Viognier Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc and  KWV 2013...

(Left) Boekenhoutskloof 2013 The Wolftrap Viognier Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc and KWV 2013 Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc.

Christopher Waters, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:29 PM ET

Winemaker Ken Forrester popped into Canada recently to help spread the good news of a grape variety he holds dear. Like other South African vintners, Forrester has assessed the treasure trove of Chenin Blanc available in his native country as a unique selling opportunity.

The trick is how to introduce consumers to a new grape variety and a provocatively different style of white wine?

Chenin Blanc is believed to be one of the first grape varieties to arrive in South Africa in 1655. Its usefulness in making brandy ensured its early success. In more recent times, it has been used to produce table wines that range from dry to sweet. It wasn’t correctly identified as the variety that the French winemakers of the Loire Valley call Chenin Blanc until 1963.

Its success in South Africa made it one of the most widely planted grape varieties until a rise in red wine varieties eclipsed it. Even still, the county continues to be home to more than 50% of the Chenin Blanc vines grown on the planet.

As a principal member of the Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa, Forrester has helped improve the overall quality of grape growing and winemaking for the distinct white grape that produces wines that often taste of apple, apricot or pineapple with a burst of refreshing acidity.

Like Riesling, Chenin Blanc is capable of producing everything from searing, dry examples to honeyed dessert wines as well as enjoyable sparkling wines. But that startling array of styles only serves to confuse consumers, Forrester explains.

“As an association we worked to identify six distinct styles for South African Chenin Blanc that we took to The Univeristy of Stellenbosch for help to introduce consumers to our wines,” he said.

After completing their research, the university came back to tell the Chenin producers that consumers saw the broad range of wines available to them as fitting into two specific categories. “There’s the fresh and fruity,” said Forrester, whose lively and refreshing Petit Chenin fits the bill. “And there’s the rich and ripe styles.”

“It’s amazing how the wine industry can complicate things,” he continued. All of the things that the winemakers believed to be fundamental to dividing some Chenin Blancs from others, including whether or not oak barrels are used to age the wine or how sweet the wine is, didn’t matter to consumers.”

By way of introduction, there are a number of affordable South African wines available across the country that are made from Chenin Blanc or use the grape as part of a blend with other varieties. The drinkability and value of these crisp and delicious wines makes them even more appealing during patio season.

Wines of the Week:

***1/2 Boekenhoutskloof 2013 The Wolftrap Viognier Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc

Western Cape, South Africa

$14.99 (856450) | AB $14 | MB $13.50 (140582) | ON $13.95 (292532)

This exotic blend remains one of the most compelling white wines available for the price in the country. The mix of fruit, spice and floral notes add depth and complexity to a richly textured and concentrated wine.

***1/2 KWV 2013 Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc

Western Cape, South Africa

ON $9.45 (018689)

I always pour this affordable white in my introductory wine classes where it opens people’s eyes to allure of the Chenin Blanc grape and the bounty of great values offerings from South Africa. Made in an appealing fresh and fruity style, this is ripe and refreshing, with the right mix of concentration and crisp acidity. A great every day, any occasion option to have on hand. KWV’s Chenin Chardonnay blend available in Manitoba is equally impressive.


Videos

Photos