Chenin Blanc: From Workhorse To Glamour Grape

With #DrinkChenin day around the corner, on 20 June, the winemaking team at Nederburg in Paarl has shared some useful information about this supremely versatile grape, South Africa’s most planted wine grape variety.

Here are some interesting facts:

  1. Chenin blanc has been the most popular choice of grape for South African brandy producers for much of the 20th century, and has been transformed from workhorse to glamour grape under the Chenin Blanc Association (CBA) that works across various fronts to raise the reputation of this cultivar.
  1. Known for its elegance and natural acidity that retains its freshness and focus, Chenin blanc has found its niche and today is ably represented as the go-to white wine from South Africa.
  1. Chenin blanc in South Africa has extensive depth in terms of vineyards, terroir diversity and winemaking expertise. The grape’s exceptional versatility and the excellent selection of fruit available, due to the Cape Winelands’ wide terroir, provide for great variety of style.
  1. New research confirms that Chenin, believed to have originated around 500 years ago, was the offspring of two French white grapes, Savagnin and Sauvignonasse.
  1. While previously grown almost exclusively by South Africa and France, Chenin blanc is now cultivated in 23 countries and has become the world’s 26th most planted variety, covering somewhere between 33 000 hectares and 36 000 ha. South Africa accounts for most plantings, totalling just over 17 000 ha.
  1. Chenin blanc is an extremely versatile grape that features in an array of dry, fruitier and noble late harvest wines. SA offers three styles – the fresh and fruity style for early consumption and then the crafted, serious wines structured to age well, either oaked or unwooded.
  1. To celebrate Chenin’s popularity among consumers, #DrinkChenin day was introduced and is now annually celebrated in June.

At Nederburg, Chenin blanc offers the winemaking team an incredible opportunity to innovate and experiment with various styles and grape sources. “A very responsive variety, Chenin blanc will give back in the bottle what the winemaker has put into it, in terms of the vineyards and the cellar,” says assistant white winemaker, Jamie Williams. 

The Nederburg cellar team is currently fermenting some of the top-quality Chenin fruit of the 2020 harvesting season in Amphora (clay vessels). The eventual wine is meant for Nederburg’s Heritage Heroes The Anchorman Chenin Blanc (wooded) 2020. The wine is named for Nederburg’s founder, Philippus Wolvaart, who bought the farm in Paarl in 1791 and planted Chenin blanc, amongst other varietals. 

The Anchorman shows freshness matched with complexity and structure, and ripe apricot, orange and floral characters laced with spice and minerality.

Jamie explains what goes into the making of this special wine: “The Anchorman Chenin Blanc is a really interesting and expressive wine that is a blend of very differently vinified components.

“One portion of fruit is fermented in barrels. A second component is fermented in stainless-steel tanks, while a third is fermented in amphorae and the remainder involves a fermentation technique usually reserved for red wines, called carbonic maceration. With this technique whole grape bunches which are neither crushed nor pressed, are allowed to ferment spontaneously, resulting in wine that tends to be light and fruity. This technique was specifically chosen for the freshness it would impart to the wine.

“The final wine offers a superb combination of fruitiness, freshness and complexity. It’s an absolute pleasure to make, and to drink!”  

During the cold winter months, Jamie suggests enjoying The Anchorman with some heart-warming dishes such as:

To watch a video of Jamie discussing The Anchorman, click here

Why not purchase a bottle of Nederburg’s The Anchorman Chenin Blanc 2019 ahead of #DrinkChenin on 20 June, and give it a try with one of the recipes above? You can buy it online here.

Share your thoughts and pictures on social media, using the hashtags #DrinkChenin and #Nederburg.  And please remember to tag Nederburg! 

Categories: Chenin Blanc, Nederburg Wine EstateTags: , , , , , , , ,

Glen Hunt

Australian living in South Africa.

glen.hunt@outlook.com

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