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2018 Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge Winners

 News of the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge winners for 2018, featuring five newcomers and five regulars, comes in the wake of unprecedented optimism in the grape variety.

“Chenin has come of age,” said chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association, Ken Forrester. “No longer just a niche grape loved by of the wine fraternity, it is acquiring a mainstream following.  More and more people are believing in it, buying it, drinking it and talking about it,” he said referring to the record number of entries in this year’s challenge, the growth in sales of Chenin Blanc this year, and the global reach of a recent social media campaign.

 

He said this year’s 159 submissions represented an increase of 17% on the 2017 challenge entry numbers, while year-on-year, local sales and exports of Chenin Blanc varietal wines are on the rise. Forrester also highlighted the success of the #DrinkChenin day social media campaign to mark June 15 as International Chenin Day that generated 4.9 million impressions.

2018 Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge Winners

“The versatility of Chenin, its diversity of wine styles and its great food-friendliness, all point towards its rising acceptance among local consumers.  This is in line with the growing international interest in the grape, increasingly seen abroad as South Africa’s calling card.”

South Africa has more Chenin Blanc under vine than any other country in the world.

The challenge drew 113 wooded and 46 unwooded entries, all tasted blind by the five-member panel, with 27 wines shortlisted for the final top ten line-up.

 

Cathy van Zyl MW, the chairman of the judges, said that the winning wines were largely but not exclusively sourced from older vineyards. “While one of the winners comes from 12-year old vines, the others come from vines that are older than 27 years. Indeed, the oldest vineyard in the line-up is 65-years’ old.”

 

This year’s judging panel comprised:

  • Cathy van Zyl MW (chair)
  • Richard Kershaw MW
  • James Pietersen (Wine Cellar)
  • Tinashe Nyamudoka (Test Kitchen)
  • Simon Field MW (UK)

and

  • Associate judge: Spencer Fondaumiere (formerly at Burrata) as an observer.

 

The judging panel of this year’s Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge comprised (from left to right): Tinashe Nyamudoka, James Pietersen, Richard Kershaw MW, Cathy van Zyl MW (chair), Simon Field (MW) and Spencer Fondaumiere (associate judge).

 

Fruit for the winning wines was sourced from as far afield as the Cederberg, Stellenbosch including Bottelary and Faure, Darling, Elgin, Durbanville, the Swartland, specifically Voor-Paardeberg, Perdeberg, Malmesbury, Tygerberg, Slanghoek, Wellington and Bot River.

UK wine consultant Simon Field MW, a specialist on wines from the Loire in France, where Chenin originates and the only foreign judge on the panel, was impressed with the line-up of what he called very polished, palatable and professional wines and their multiplicity of expression.  “A definitively South African Chenin style was apparent to me – riper, more fruit-forward and floral, with qualities of nectarine and other yellow fruit, some beeswax and honey. The whole experience gave me a fascinating new perspective on Chenin.”

 

Pointing to the availability of Chenin excellence at accessible prices, Willie du Plessis, Standard Bank SA’s executive head of business banking for the Western Cape, noted that the average price of the top 10 wines was R200. “These world-class wines offer outstanding value, with winners retailing at R70, R90, R120 before rising to the highest price of R375.”

He confirmed a prize of R25 000 for each of the winning wines. The money would need “to reinforce economic and social benefits in the workplace”, in accordance with the conditions of the challenge.  “We believe the honour of making it onto the Top Ten list should extend to the workers as well as the brand owners.”

 

The winning wines listed alphabetically are:

Cederberg Private Cellar Five Generations Chenin Blanc 2016

 

Price                            R225

Winemaker   David Nieuwoudt

General

Oak

Barrel fermented, aged 11 months – 33% new

Vines   12 years’ old

WO     Cederberg

Tasting notes

Bright and full of verve with tropical fruits and a bouquet and flavours of citrus, a saline hint and rich, long finish, overlaid with vanilla detail.

Chemical analysis

Alc      14%

RS       3.8g/l

TA       6.7g/l

pH       3.48

 

DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017   

 

Price                            R375

Winemaker                  Carl van der Merwe

General

Oak     Barrel fermented, aged 10 months – 20% new

Vines   46 years’ old

WO     Stellenbosch

 

Tasting notes

Complex ginger-spice nose, with a hint of crème fraiche and white peach; layered complexity from interplay of oak and fruit, enlivening acidity, dry and pithy conclusion.

Chemical analysis

Alc      14.4%

RS       3.7g/l

TA       5.9g/l

pH       3.34

 

Jean Daneel Signature Chenin Blanc 2016

 

Price                            R269

Winemaker                  Jean-Pierre Daneel

General

Oak     Barrel fermented, aged 12 months – 20% new

Vines   Between 35 and 65 years’ old

WO     Western Cape (Stellenbosch, Malmesbury, Perdeberg)

 

 

Tasting notes

Initially quite closed, opening up to a yellow cling peach and spice nose, very well composed with a rich and vanilla-driven palate, lifted by bright fruit and fresh acidity.

Chemical analysis

Alc      14.5%

RS       2.6g/l

TA       6.2g/l

pH       3.41

 

Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Chenin Blanc 2016

 

Price                            R90

Winemaker                  Renier van Deventer

General

Oak     Barrel fermented, aged 9 months – 2nd and 3rd fill

Vines   Average age 20 years

WO     Western Cape (Voor-Paardeberg)

 

 

Tasting notes

Very expressive, honey and white peach nose opens onto orange and other citrus aromas, beautifully textured with a decent grip and satisfying dryness.

Chemical analysis

Alc      13.5g/l

RS       3.3g/l

TA       6.5g/l

pH       3.29

 

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc ‘Steen Op Hout’ 2017

 

Price                            R70

Winemaker                  Adam Mason

General

Oak     100% stainless steel fermented, 28% aged in barrel – 2nd and 3rd fill

Vines   60% 30+ years’ old, 40% 20-29 years’ old

WO     Western Cape (Stellenbosch, Darling)

 

 

Tasting notes

A slow burner, it needs time to unfold and show its charm. Wet stones and faint orange blossom, bright acidity with lovely weight and lingering mineral finish.

Chemical analysis

Alc      13.5%

RS       2.3g/l

TA       5.3g/l

pH       3.61

 

Slanghoek Legends Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016 

 

Price                            R196

Winemaker                  Nico Grundling

General

Oak     Barrel fermented, aged 26 months – 100% new

Vines   29 years’ old

WO     Slanghoek

 

 

Tasting notes

Charming and elegant jasmine delicacy on classy fresh orchard fruits, purposeful, well integrated and exceedingly long with deftly handled oak.

Chemical analysis

Alc      13.8%

RS       4.7g/l

TA       5.4g/l

pH       3.51

 

Spier Wines 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2017

 

Price                            R198

Winemaker                  Jacques Erasmus

General

Oak     Barrel fermented, aged 14 months – 60% new

Vines   33 years’ old

WO     Coastal (Tygerberg)

 

 

Tasting notes

Pretty with apple blossom, orange and bruised apple. Ripe and very structured on the palate, well-handled oak detail and steely palate, rich but exceedingly fine.

Chemical analysis

Alc      14.74%

RS       4.6g/l

TA       6.0 g/l

pH       3.40

 

Stellenrust ‘53’ Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2017    

 

Price                            R200

Winemaker                  Tertius Boshoff

General

Oak     Barrel fermented, aged 9 months

Vines   53 years’ old

WO     Stellenbosch

 

 

Tasting notes

Initially restrained, opens onto marzipan and white orchard fruit; vibrant and bright with integrated oak and a pleasant “off-piste” bitter lift and salinity on the finish.

Chemical analysis

Alc      14.1%

RS       4.4g/l

TA       7.9g/l

pH       3.21

 

Wellington Winemakers Selection La Cave Chenin Blanc 2016

Price                            R120

Winemakers                Erik van Wyk, Francois van Niekerk

General

Oak     Barrel fermented, aged 12 months – 100% new

Vines   27 years’ old

WO     Wellington

 

 

 

Tasting notes

Pure fruit expression with key lime pie, peach and apple with ripe papaya and other tropical fruits on the palate. Well-integrated and smooth, very long and genteel sweet impression on the finish.

Chemical analysis

Alc      13.5%

RS       2.8g/l

TA       5.9g/l

pH       3.56

 

Wildekrans Barrel Select Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017   

 

Price                            R265

Winemaker                  Braam Gericke

General

Oak     Barrel fermented, aged 12 months – 30% new oak

Vines   36 years’ old

WO     Botriver/Walker Bay

 

 

Tasting notes

Subtle spice with white peach, salty orange and florals, wet clay lift, bright and balancing acidity, long and fulsome yet with a sense of lightness of being.

Chemical analysis

Alc      13.0%

RS       4.2 g/l

TA       8.8 g/l

pH       3.26

 

Spier has featured amongst the Top Ten every year since the inception of the challenge in 2014 and DeMorgenzon, every year since 2015. Stellenrust has been in the line-up every year since 2014, with the exception of 2016. This year marks the third time Leopard’s Leap has appeared.

 

Image captions:

Photography by Danie Nel.

 

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