Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Top Ten Chenin blanc Awards lunch at Delaire Graff

Chenin Blanc Shines its Sunshine on South Africa and the world
This happy grape, with so many different faces and guises is just the thing to warm up winter and cool down summer. It is the grape that is getting such good attention overseas for the many wonderful wines being produced and so well marketed overseas, thanks to the Chenin Blanc Association and Wines of South Africa. It has the Chenin Blanc Association says, become our calling card, offering such diversity of expression
August is the time of year when we get to taste the adjudged best Chenins in the land. The weather is usually showing signs of Spring but this year we are still in winter and it was a cold and wintry day at Delaire Graff at the top of Helshoogte pass for the Awards ceremony over a superb lunch
A warm welcome from Chenin Blanc Association Chairman Ken Forrester to Judy Brower of Wine.co.za; Mike Bampfield Duggan, Wine Concepts and journalist Graham Howe, as we enjoyed a glass of his Sparkle Horse Chenin Blanc MCC bubbly
Tiny Asian duck spring rolls with a sate peanut sauce were served
Huge oysters delighted those that love them, and there were plenty
MW Cathy Van Zyl, Head judge in the competition, chatting to Alan Mullins of Woolworths Wine
Tiny stacks of herb cream cheese and smoked salmon topped with salmon caviar. So hard not to fill up before lunch
Time to take our seats in the restaurant
Yes, we will use all of those glasses and more which were on two other tables; two of the 10 winning wines were served with each of the five courses
We begin the awards. Ken Forrester, Chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association talked about the very successful partnership they have with their headline sponsor, Standard Bank - it is an interactive relationship now in its fourth year. And Standard bank do take this relationship very seriously, they serve Chenin at all their corporate functions and in their dining rooms, amongst other things
He commented about this year's awards that "It's thrilling to see how many local winemakers are so clearly and creatively expressing the world-class potential of this varietal". The winning wines, produced by nine cellars, came from seven wine-growing areas - the Cederberg, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Swartland, Tygerberg, Durbanville and Darling. And one very interesting fact is that since the competition began in 2014, only one unwooded Chenin Blanc has been a winner

We then heard from Nico Groenewald, Head : Personal and Business Banking SA Agribusiness at Standard Bank, who told us that there are no prizes for the winners - except of course the kudos. However, each of these wines earns a prize of R25 000 for the producer that must, in terms of the competition regulations, be used "to reinforce economic and social benefits in the workplace". "We want the accolade to have meaning for the workers as well as the brand owners, as we are honouring their collective contributions", said Standard Bank's Willie Du Plessis
The judging panel comprised five judges, including one international judge and an associate, whose score was not considered, but who was there to learn and to contribute to the discussion. This year’s panel members were: Cathy van Zyl MW (chair); Richard Kershaw MW (winemaker); James Pietersen (retailer, Wine Cellar); Tinashe Nyamudoka (sommelier, Test Kitchen); Lauren Buzzeo (managing editor and tasting director, Wine Enthusiast) and the Associate judge: Marlvin Gwese (sommelier, Cape Grace)
Kat Miller of Wine of the Month Club, listening intently to the awards
And then it was time to announce the winners and present them with their certificates. 33 Chenins made it to the top 10 selection; it was a difficult job for the judges. Judge James Pietersen said it was a vibrant category for South Africa; there are great stylistic differences, what they look for is balance

Cederberg Private Cellar Five Generations Chenin Blanc 2015 (debut): R220
DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016: R350 
Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut): R130
Nederburg Heritage Heroes The Anchorman Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut): R150
Perdeberg Winery The Dry Land Collection Courageous Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016: R86 
Spice Route Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut): R110
Spier Wines 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2016: R185
Stellenrust 52 Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016: R200 
Stellenrust 51 Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2015: R500
Windmeul Kelder Chenin Blanc Reserve 2016 (debut): R80

Perdeberg is a winner for the fourth consecutive year with the same wine. Spier has achieved the same success, but with different expressions of Chenin. Five of the winning wines were produced from vines 40 years and older. This was not surprising, said panel chair Cathy van Zyl, given that 52% of all South African vines aged 35 and older were Chenin Blanc. "Seven of the 2017 winners come from vineyards older than 30 years and eight from vines at least 20 years' old"

And then it was time for us to taste them with lunch. This is the menu
The first course was a vibrantly coloured and excellent beetroot cured salmon, a good cure leaving the salmon firm and flavourful and ready to take on two very different Chenins. Nice texture contrasts from the caviar, creamy dill mayonnaise and the crunchy ginger honey crumble. The crisp elegant Cederberg 2015 Five Generations full of lemons and limes and minerality, making its debut in the competition and the more tropical, warmer Windmeul, full of peaches and guavas is a bargain
The next course was lightly smoked Saldanha Bay oysters, which came in a lemon grass dry ice mist with an apple vanilla salsa. This was served with the Fleur du Cap 2016 Unfiltered, which is also smoky and its dry clean minerality went well with the smoked oysters
Lynne was served a huge salad; excellently dressed leaves from the salad patch, with a few roasted aubergines, courgettes, mushrooms, crisp croutons and some rather smelly cheese, which was so large that she shared it with others at the table. The other wine with this course was the Nederburg Heritage Heroes 2016 The Anchorman, fresh and full, with citrus and caramel notes from the wood
We must confess to being a little confused and short changed by the next course, billed as an Asian Chicken ramen with mushrooms, radish and bean sprouts, because it had no ramen noodles at all. However the broth was very satisfying and deep in flavour with notes of 5 spice powder, as was the middle Eastern Dukkah - fusion indeed. The shredded chicken breast was dry and might have been improved by being thigh meat?
The two wines with this course were the Perdeberg Dry Lands Courageous 2016 Barrel Fermented - we have to confess, always a favourite of ours; this did not disappoint with its layers of fruit, minerality and depth. It always shows as a very well made and expensive wine and it is not at R86 a bottle. The Spier 21 Gables 2016 was also vying for attention with its full fruit and great wood integration, a lovely wine

The line up of the winners
Our tasting portions
Squirrels in the trees enjoying the spring in their step
On to the main course - and we confess we were beginning to feel a little full. A rocher of the richest, creamiest duck liver mousse, next to a crisp Confit duck leg resting on a bed of butternut purée and butternut gratin, with tahini and Brussels sprouts. A very rich dish and, if you don't appreciate Brussels sprouts, they were sidelined
The dish was served with Spice Route 2016, which is perfumed and light on the nose, with good wood, and nice layered fruit reveals itself on the palate. De Morgenzon Reserve 2016 is golden heaven in the glass, so concentrated, so layered, wonderfully full on the palate with the wood showing on the end as vanilla spice. We like it

Ina Smith, Secretary of the Chenin Blanc Association (she who must be obeyed or nothing works - actually Ina is a pussy cat and passionate about Chenin). was presented with a bouquet
Willie du Plessis, Standard Bank SA's executive head of business banking for the Western Cape made his usual amusing speech. He said they have to box to see who attends the Johannesburg Chenin function each year, it is so popular. He sent his competitor on the Commercial Banking side to the Sunflower PR event this year so he could be here! Agri business has a much wider reach. Their decision to align with the Chenin Blanc Association was the right way to go. Brand Chenin is South Africa's wine speciality; the wine is so food friendly and has transformed from a workhorse to a glamorous grape, thanks largely to Ken Forrester's charisma. It is an expression of what makes South African such an appealing country
Hilton Appelbaum of De Morgenzon
The line up of winners with their certificates
Ina Smith with Sumi Gous of Sumi Creative Co, the designer of the #DrinkChenin badges
And then dessert, Only it wasn't, as it was a plate of local cheeses with some pineapple & ginger chutney, preserved fig, roasted nuts, seeded melba toast and some out of season imported (?) grapes. The two winning old vine Stellenrust vintages were served with this - 51 Barrel fermented 2015 had a dusty musty nose, with honeyed grape flavours - they do get botrytis in the vineyard - and 52 Barrel Fermented 2016 is similar with a smoky nose and clean acidity (the 51 and 52 are the ages of the vines the grapes come from). The cheeses went very well with the wines
A rather bleak day in the vineyards with rain forecast. The cheetah sculpture is by Dylan Lewis
The views from Delaire Graff are magnificent, even in winter. That was such a good event, with outstanding wines and food

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