Chenin blanc is certainly not a newcomer on the wine scene; it’s one of our country’s most popular, most widely-planted, and most consumed wine. Ironically, it’s one of the most underrated ones too.
How so? Thanks to the grape’s high yields and incredible versatility, its quality can vary greatly — with many a wine drinker consequently thinking of chenin as a “cheap and cheerful” kind of wine.
In reality, quality chenin blanc is something to behold; outpacing many others thanks to its incredible acidity and ability to pair so sublimely with a wide range of foods.
Nestled in a picturesque part of the Cape — just north of Franschhoek, east of Ceres and west of Robertson and McGregor — the Breedekloof Wine Valley is, itself, one of the winelands’ best-kept secrets. Home to an unmatched number of seriously good chenin blancs, it’s little wonder I had to include this region in my Regional Wine Series.
When I began this series in 2018, my aim was to celebrate and honour the distinct wine regions in the Cape by showcasing each one’s signature style. So far, I’ve had the priviliege of collaborating with Constantia and Stellenbosch’s top winemakers to make the Constantia White and Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon respectively. The third in the series, launched in March 2020, is the Breedekloof Chenin Blanc 2019.
Five of the valley’s best winemakers contributed their best vineyard blocks toward creating one wine. All five were involved in the selection and blending process, tasting multiple blends together before reaching consensus that they had created the ultimate example of barrel-fermented chenin from their beloved valley.
One of these winemakers, Attie Louw of Opstal Estate, shares why he personally loves chenin blanc: “It’s sunshine in a glass! It’s one of the few cultivars that really shows its terroir and sense of place. Together with its fruit appeal, it offers drinkability at all the different price points — oaked and unoaked,” he says, adding, “It’s probably the best white-wine food partner too… you could have a chenin-only white wine list in a smart restaurant and still hit all the notes.”
I couldn’t agree more. Here’s to spring, quality chenin blanc, the Breedekloof Wine Valley, and every other wine secret worth sharing.
THE CHENIN OF THE SEASON:
The Breedekloof Chenin Blanc 2019
Exuding the fruit purity so typical of the Breedekloof, expect concentrated aromas of nectarines, Golden Delicious apple, ripe pineapple, and lemon zest, backed by well-integrated oak. On the palate, a zesty fruit acidity and long finish awaits. Pair with: slow-roasted pork neck with a green asparagus salad and rosemary potato wedges.