For the first time in the nine-year history of the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge, a full house of the winning wines will be showcased to global trade and wine enthusiasts. This is according to Ken Forrester, chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association, the organisation that hosts the annual competition.
He has confirmed that the wines will be lined up for tasting locally at November’s Chenin Blanc Summit, an international conference expected to draw around 300 producers, critics, academics and commentators from across the world. The Cape was chosen as the venue for the global conference as it has more Chenin under vine than anywhere else in the world combined. More importantly, local producers have become internationally acknowledged for their dynamic, innovative approaches to growing and making Chenin.
The Top Ten Challenge wines, Forrester said, represented the best of the best in Chenin in South Africa. As such, they would also be made available for tasting at a special event on the eve of South Africa’s triennial wine exhibition CapeWine 2022 in October.
“Coming after a sustained dearth in large-scale live wine events, spring promises to be an exciting time for local Chenin producers, particularly our Top Ten winners. To exhibit their wines to committed enthusiasts of the grape should surely be a major motivation to enter. Apart from the obvious trade potential there’s also the chance to exchange a host of ideas – stylistic, philosophical, wine-growing and winemaking.”
Entries for the competition open June 20 and will be accepted until June 30.
Forrester noted that despite the contraction of the national vineyard to just under 91 000 ha by 2021, Chenin Blanc remained South Africa’s most planted variety. Its share had risen slightly to 18,6% of the total. “This suggests that despite the industry’s uprooting of vines for reasons of drought, lack of access to water, economic viability or more lucrative use of land, Chenin continues to dominate because of the enormous potential it offers. It would also explain why, according to SA Wine Industry Information & Systems (SAWIS) the highest number of new plantings in 2021 were of Chenin vines.
“It would be hard to find another variety as climate-resilient and stylistically versatile. That close to a third of total Chenin plantings are already over 20 years’ old is another of its attributes. Mature vines add depth of flavour and are better able to cope with climate stress, providing the opportunity to work with characterful fruit of outstanding quality. We have already seen how many winemakers sourcing from registered Old Vines at least 35 years’ old are garnering critical acclaim. Early studies involving the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business are also positing a positive correlation between vine age and wine price.”
Annually, the competition awards a cash prize of R25 000 to each of the producers of the top ten Chenins, to be spent on farm worker community projects. Speaking on behalf of the sponsors, Stephan van der Merwe, head of commercial clients at Standard Bank in the Western Cape, said: “The express intention of the prize money is to acknowledge the vital role played by farm workers in making award-winning wines.”
He added that past winners had used the money mostly for educational initiatives, from early learning programmes all the way through to tertiary training. “There are now crèches and after-care facilities for school children on some farms, thanks to this prize money. Other winners have created libraries, computer rooms and other educational resources for learners, workers, and communities.”
To date, a total of R1,85m has been spent to support farm worker projects. They also include fresh produce cultivation and housing initiatives to benefit workers and their communities.
Chenin entries should be delivered to Villiera in Stellenbosch. The winners will be announced at the end of August.
- This year’s judges are James Pietersen (panel chair), Wine Cellar’s MD and a regular judge in this and several other leading local wine competitions; SA Sommeliers’ Association chair Spencer Foudaumiere; winemaker Boela Gerber, Cape Wine Master of Groot Constantia; Penny Setti, former sommelier at Chef’s Warehouse and now owner of Penny Noire wine bar; Malu Lambert, an award-winning wine writer and contributor to Platter’s South African Wine Guide and a selection of titles, including jancisrobinson.com, Decanter and The Buyer. This year’s associate judge is Shawn Mathyse, junior winemaker at Ken Forrester Wines.
- For a sense of the impact each R25 000 prize can make to people’s lives, watch this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqtzGzHJutU.
- In the 2022 edition of the Platter’s South African Wine Guide, 27 Chenins were awarded 5-star ratings. This is significantly more than achieved any other variety.
Categories: Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top10 Challenge