The SOMM Journal

February / March 2017

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Page 103 of 116

{ }  103 { sommcon recap } Jim Clarke, Marketing Manager for Wines of South Africa, led our seminar and tasting exploring Chenin Blanc in its current state in the coastally-influenced wine country. Secateurs 2016 Chenin Blanc, Swartland, South Africa ($16) Fom this hip, up-and-coming region, this perfumed-with-mango white is aged in concrete and large, old oak casks. Bush vines grow on schist and granite soils. The wine is ethereal, with subtle tropical overtones and a stony middle. Gorgeous, balanced acidity reigns and helps the path of melon, lemongrass and a touch of apple toffee on the finish. —Meridith May by Allyson Gorsuch / photos by Michael Morse CHENIN BLANC HAS FOUND A HOME in South Africa and yields a much different expression from that in its birthplace in the cool climate of France's Loire Valley. Although the wine regions of South Africa lie between the 27th and 34th parallels, the coastline is dramatically cooled by counterclockwise currents flowing north from freezing Antarctica. Jim Clarke, Marketing Manager for Wines of South Africa, led our intrigued group through a tasting of eight Chenin Blancs, exploring the distinctly different style of wine in each bottle. "South Africans don't think of Chenin Blanc as a cool-climate variety," states Clarke. In fact, the vineyards in the coolest sites are deliberately not planted to Chenin Blanc. This results in riper fruit, more tropical expressions and more weight on the palate. Wide variation still exists, though, depending upon the mesoclimate of the Chenin Blanc vineyard and, perhaps more important, according to winemaking preferences. Many winemakers prefer to make a fresh, fruity wine while others employ oak barrels. Chenin Blanc is easily susceptible to Botrytis cinerea, and some winemakers like the additional flavors while others choose to avoid them. Chenin Blanc also runs the spectrum of residual sugar—from bone dry to slightly sweet to dessert-style succulence. The challenge with Chenin Blanc in the current marketplace is one empa - thized with by many regions and varieties: How does the consumer know which style of wine is in the bottle? "Price-point isn't always a clear guide," shares Clarke. Since 2010, the Chenin Blanc Association has been working with the University of Stellenbosch to identify common sensory differences, eventually aiming to relay the particular style on the label. "The future of Chenin lies in middle-weight styles, and it's the $15 to $20 range where they excel," reveals Clarke. Raats 2013 Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($25) A mesmerizing nose of gardenia, chamomile and white chocolate. Grapes off trellised vines of 40 years average age bring a sweet lime and white pear mid-palate with a weighty, creamy mouthfeel. Granite and sandstone soils show through the salinity that comes through toward the finish. Aged 70% in stainless steel and 30% in 300- liter French oak barrels. —M. M. Beaumont 2014 Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc, Bot River, South Africa ($35) An avant- garde style from a warmer site made by a second- generation winemaker. The wine is barrel- fermented in French oak for ten months. Rich and opulent body with herbal tonality; a creamy, intense Chenin style from 38-year-old vines. —M. M. South African Chenin Blanc: Forging a New Identity

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