Saturday, August 29, 2015

Chenin comes of age at the Top 10 Chenin Blanc Challenge Awards at Cape Grace

We have said this before and no doubt will again. Chenin Blanc is the grape that defines the South African wine industry. We grow more of it than any other grape. It can be grown all over our winelands as it is not terroir specific and can produce many different styles, very well. We have vineyards of great age and elegance that continue to produce superb wine, Astoundingly, all the winners in this competition come from vineyards that are at least 25 year old, and many are 40 years or more. It is our best hope of overseas attention and respect. We are producing some absolutely amazing Chenins, at all price levels. And some are very affordable. In fact at the prices quoted below, all would sell in the UK for around or below ₤10 yet their international competitors would sell for much, much, more.
This week, we were at The Cape Grace Hotel to attend the award ceremony of the Standard Bank Top 10 Chenin Blancs for 1915
Always nice to get a warm welcoming smile and a glass of some bubbly
De Morgenzon’s DMZ NV Chenin MCC
Two other MCC's made from Chenin were available for tasting: Perdeberg's Brut Reserve NV and Sparklehorse from Ken Forrester with its pretty carousel label. All are excellent
Canapés of salmon, topped with mayonnaise in vol au vent cases, circulated
Photographer Danie Nel with PRO Nicolette Waterford
Getting the organisation sorted out is Ina Smith, the doyenne of organisation and management at the Chenin Blanc Association
Mercy Mwai, the sommelier of Nobu restaurant at The One & Only Hotel, with Lynne and Journalist Graham Howe
The awards function was held in the hotel's Signal restaurant
Chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association Ken Forrester opens proceedings. It has come of age. To quote Ken: "Chenin Blanc seems to belong everywhere with wines from Durbanville, Paarl, Piekenierskloof, Swartland and Stellenbosch represented in the Top 10. There can no longer be any doubt of the role that old vines play in the excellence of Chenin Blanc with all the wines coming off vineyards older than 20 years. May it stay long in the ground”
Billy du Plessis, Standard Bank Executive Business Banking Head in the Western Cape, tells of Standard Bank's commitment to these awards
Christian Eedes of Winemag.co.za. Christian, one of South Africa’s most respected wine judges, was chairperson. The other judges were Jamie Goode from the United Kingdom, a London-based wine writer, currently wine columnist with UK national newspaper The Sunday Express; Higgo Jacobs, certified with the Court of Master Sommeliers and wine judge; François Rautenbach, a man deeply invested in hospitality and heading up the ‘Singita Premier Wine Direct’ programme for Singita Game Reserves and sourcing and supplying wines for the Singita properties in Southern and East Africa; Cathy van Zyl, Master of Wine, regular judge and associate editor of Platter’s South African Wine Guide, as well as associate judges Jaap-Henk Koelewijn, sommelier and partner in Tokara Restaurant, and Tongai Joseph Dafana, sommelier at La Colombe. 145 wines were entered, 15% more than last year
The menu, with each course paired with two of the winning Chenins
A morsel of pickled yellowtail, with avocado lime mousse, crisp Kataifi pastry shards and some salad leaves. it was accompanied by a rather robust curry apricot chutney. Paired with KVW Cathedral Cellar 2014 R85 (from 54% from a Paarl vineyard approximately 25 years old, 33.2% from a Swartland vineyard 36 years old and 12.8% from a Stellenbosch, approximately 30 years old) and Perdeberg The Dry Land Collection Barrel Fermented 2014 R77 (from two vineyards in the Agter-Paarl, one 26 years old and the other 32 years old).
We tried to hang on to some of our glasses but there were just too many people and they needed the glasses for the next pouring. This is the next course. Potato gnudi, fried in butter with a very creamy foam with gentle hints of gorgonzola, served on poached pear with semi dried tomato and a walnut crumble. Someone at the table compared it to muesli at breakfast and we would have liked more sight of the gorgonzola, but it went very well with the two wines: the DeMorgenzon Reserve 2014 R210 (from a vineyard on the Stellenbosch property planted in 1972, 43 years old) and Lynne's favourite wine of the tasting, the L'Avenir Single Block 2014 R195 (from a vineyard on the Stellenbosch property planted in 1972, 43 years old) which has delicious hints of pine nuts on the nose with nutmeg and a sprinkle of cayenne on top of rich fruit
Ina Smith of the Chenin Blanc Association with the sponsor of the Challenge, Darius Rasool, Marketing Manager at Standard Bank Group
The next course was an Asian flavoured glazed square of tender pork belly, with a crunchy vegetable slaw topped with a salted sesame nougatine. This came with Simonsig's Chenin Avec Chène 2014 R115 (from the Stellenbosch property’s oldest Chenin Blanc vineyard planted in 1986) and Spier 21 Gables 2014 R139 (from a Durbanville vineyard, 40 years plus in age)
Dead soldiers
Fourth course of confit duck roll, a swipe of sweet potato purée, a curried jus and topped with lovely onion crisps and served with green vegetables. The paired wines were Aeternitas 2010 R120 (from a 49-year-old Swartland vineyard) and Stellenrust 49 Barrel fermented 2013 Chenin R130 (from a 49-year-old vineyard in Bottelary, Stellenbosch )
And then to dessert. An old fashioned Bread and Butter pudding (we wanted much more!) with a passion fruit cream, citrus marmalade and Lynne's nightmare, rooibos ice cream, which she left on the plate. Paired with Boutinot Tea Leaf 2014 Chenin R74 (from a Piekenierskloof vineyard, 40 years plus in age and surrounded by Rooibos ) and Leopards Leap Culinaria 2014 R70 (from 90% Chenin some 30 to 40 years old and 10% Grenache Blanc, both from Voor Paardeberg)
Six of the winners
The other six
All the winners with their awards and their wines From L to R: Kobus van der Merwe, KWV. Dirk Coetzee, L'Avenir. Hannes Meyer, Simonsig. Albertus Louw, Perdeberg. Marinda Kruger-Van Eck and Donovan Rall, Boutinot. Tertius Boshoff, Stellenrust. Johan Grimbeek, Aeternitas. Carl van der Merwe, DeMorgenzon, Eugene van Zyl, Leopard's Leap. Jacques Erasmus, Spier
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015

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