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23 November 2012

South Africa part 3: Chenin blanc, Viognier, Grenache blanc, Semillon...

This third blast of "blurb & bottles" in my recent South African mini-series - see Part 2: "unusual" reds (well, some of them) (posted October) and Part 1 Pinot Noir (September) if that grabs you - takes a brief look at a few tasty white wines. And especially perennial favourite Chenin blanc, which I've gone on about before (goes to SA archive page) and no doubt will do again. This French variety has a long track record in the Cape and can make a dazzling array of quality dry to sweet wine styles, including some very sound sparkling wines too; as long as it's not too mass produced, which usually ends up as rather bland and characterless. Viognier is, like in most wine regions outside of France, a relative parvenu in South Africa; and winemakers here are beginning to show us what they can do with this more exotic and powerful grape, as a varietal wine or blended with Chenin and/or others such as Grenache blanc. The latter Catalan / southern French variety is also featuring more and more in the Cape wine-lands and, logically, seems to suit South Africa's warm/hot climate zones well. This merry band of whites was tried and tested on different occasions this year, some of them at the London Wine Fair a few months ago and the rest at home or on wine courses I've been running.

Bellingham 2011 The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc (14%) - tight and steely at first layered with a subtle creamier honeyed side, not very revealing when I tasted it (was too cold) but feels like it's got a bit of class underneath. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone (imported by DGB Europe) or $30-$50 USA.
Adi Badenhorst 2011 Secateurs Chenin Blanc, Swartland (14.5% alc) - lovely exotic honeyed character with cantaloupe melon fruit and oily rounded mouth-feel, fair weight too then steelier and spicier finish nicely counteracting its rich style. UK £9.75 James Nicholson (NI), £11.50 Swig (London). Older Badenhorst here.
Spier 2010 21 Gables Chenin Blanc (14%) - full-on Burgundy-esque buttery style with sweet fruit and creamy hazelnut flavours, nice weight and mouth-feel; good although could be Chardonnay! £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Jean Daneel 2011 Chenin Blanc (14%) - quite rich and toasty with hazelnut undertones, dry and steely palate though with intense long finish; still tasting young needing a few months bottle age probably, but promising. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Ken Forrester 2011 Reserve Chenin Blanc (14%) - Mr. Forrester is 'the daddy' of Chenin blanc (and makes a few own-labels in the UK such as Tesco's Finest CB), and this example shows his usual class. Quite restrained tight and zesty to start vs a weightier honeyed side, crisp long finish; needs time too to come together and open up.
Villiera 2011 Traditional Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc (13.3%) - aromatic juicy honey and melon with greengage edges, turning more buttery on the palate vs good bite and length; nice style. UK £7-£10 Crush Wines, US $14-$30, Eurozone €9-€15.
De Trafford Four V Chenin Blanc (14.68%) - fairly powerful stuff with rich honeyed fruit and texture, attractive nuttier finish too. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Beaumont 2011 Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc (12.5%) - not showing much at first, gets fuller and rounder though with nutty flavours, a hint of sweetness too vs lively yeast-lees notes. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Stellenrust 2010 '46' Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc (14%) - leesy nose, quite toasty and rich too with juicy honeyed melon fruit, nutty and crisp on the finish vs full and ripe. Another attractive style. UK: Bibendum Wines.
Bosman Family Vineyards 2010 Optenhorst Chenin Blanc (13.5%) - fairly lush with toasted hazelnut vs maturing savoury oaty notes, finishing with steely bite; attractive and quite classy. £10-£20 UK (Thierry's), €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.

Leeuwenkuil Family Reserve white 2011 (50% Chenin blanc, 20% Roussanne, 16% Grenache blanc, 10% Clairette blanche, 4% Verdelho; 13.5% alc.) - juicy honeyed and creamy with aromatic nutty side too, quite punchy vs very crisp (the acidity's a little hard actually) vs toasty rounded finish. Interesting though. UK £7-£10 New Generation Wines, US $14-$30, Eurozone €9-€15.
KWV 2010 The Mentor's Grenache Blanc (14.2%) - interesting quirky wine, big and punchy with enticing hazelnut vs herby notes, rounded and full-on vs crisper nutty finish. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Bellingham 2011 The Bernard Series Whole Bunch 'Grenache Blanc with Viognier' (14%) - rich and toasty with powerful palate, again has surprisingly tight and subtle finish after that full-on start; probably needs a bit of time to express itself. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone (imported by DGB Europe) or $30-$50 USA.
Bellingham 2011 The Bernard Series Hand-Picked Viognier (13.5%) - steelier more restrained style of Viognier with zesty lees notes vs lightly exotic aromatic fruit, tight and quite crisp finish vs touch of richness. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone (imported by DGB Europe) or $30-$50 USA.
Flagstone 2011 Word of Mouth Viognier (14.2%) - hints of floral apricot, again quite discreet at first yet powerful in the mouth; either a tad lacking or a little more elegant than is good for it?! UK £7-£10 Accolade Wines, US $14-$30, Eurozone €9-€15.
Escapades 2011 Semillon (14.5%) - a bit cold and closed up when I first tried it, develops toasty edges vs 'waxy' honeyed fruit, tight and fresh mouth-feel vs pretty full-on and rounded. Needs a few months?
Cloof 2010 The Very Vivacious Viognier, Darling (12.5%) - well, not very, but this is still an attractive lighter style of Viognier with floral peachy apricot notes and rounded easy-drinking palate. www.winesulike.co.uk £10.99

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