Ken Forrester has been a driving force in elevating South African Chenin Blanc to its rightful place as a noble cultivar and gaining recognition of SA Chenin on the global stage. Ken joined with other passionate people who saw the potential of the cultivar and together founded the Chenin Blanc Association in 2000 to further these objectives.
Chenin has been the most planted wine cultivar in SA for decades which outnumbers even France’s plantings and was one the earliest vine brought to the country when it was sent to Jan van Riebeeck in 1655. Historically, the massive plantings were mostly used in the production of brandy, while In recent decades, winemakers started cultivating and vinifying Chenin into a range of styles of wine ranging from light to ripe to rich, not to forget, still to dessert to sparkling. With such diversity in styles, it can be difficult to decern which Chenin best suits your preference. The Chenin Blanc Association identified the opportunity to help buyers by introducing a style indicator to the labels depicting a continuum from fresh to fruit to rich.
Fresh wines lead with greener characteristics including green apples and limes, fermented in stainless steel allowing the crisp acidity to shine. The body of these wines might be enriched through extended lees contact. Fruity styles focus more on fruit-forward with ripe tropical and stone fruits. The wines will be made to preserve the fruit integrity but increase complexity through fermenting and maturing in a range of vessels that add to the mouthfeel. These include concrete eggs, clay amphorae, large oak barrels or old smaller barrels. Rich styles point to wines that integrate wooding into the flavour profile through fermenting in new and younger barrels and the fruit character starts to show as baked apples and dried fruit with a buttery and vanilla influence.
This new Chenin Blanc style indicator will be tested by a pilot group of estates from the 2022 vintage, so start keeping your eyes peeled for a new addition to Chenin labels.