Friday, September 07, 2018

2018 Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge

The annual Chenin Blanc Association Top 10 Challenge Awards were presented in the spectacular wine cellar at Ellerman House. 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

To quote Ken Forrester, chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association: "Chenin Blanc has come of age. 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
What else could do the welcome so well but the
Sparkle Horse Brut Chenin Blanc MCC from Ken Forrester
 Michelle Stewart and Associate judge Spencer Fondaumiere,
Group Operations Manager and Sommelier; Burrata, Bocca and Open Door Restaurants
Media colleagues Jon Meinking and Clifford Roberts
 Jeff Grier of Villiera, Dirk van Zyl and Danie de Waal of De Morgenzon
We were offered some canapés. These were sweet raspberry macarons, rather surprisingly filled with smoked salmon. An odd sensation
A plate of the canapés on offer. Nothing was what it seemed on the surface
The crisp, crumbed belly of pork on the left was topped with what tasted like mackerel mousse
The chef mixed many sweet and fishy flavours with the savoury expectation
Not universally popular, probably very trendy. Media are rarely that adventurous
 Ellerman House Sommelier Melusi Magodhi
 Jeff Grier, Vice Chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association
 Renee and Jean Daneel from JD Wines in Napier
We stood to listen to the awards of the Top 10
The Chenin Blanc Association told us in a video that 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” 
Craig Polkinghorne, Head: Business and Commercial Banking at Standard Bank Group,
who sponsor the awards, reiterated their commitment to Chenin and the wine industry
The aroma wheel of Chenin Blanc, in all its diverse iterations
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
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”. The judges were 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 as an observer
The 2018 top 10 winners were
Cederberg Private Cellar Five Generations Chenin Blanc 2016
DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017
Jean Daneel Wines Signature Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut)
Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Chenin Blanc 2016
Mulderbosch Vineyards Chenin Blanc Steen op Hout 2017 (debut)
Slanghoek Wynkelder Legends Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut)
Spier Wines 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2017
Stellenrust ‘53’ Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2017
Wellington Wines La Cave Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut)
Wildekrans Barrel Select Chenin Blanc Reserve 2017 (debut)
Here the winners are with their awards
 Cathy van Zyl told us, “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.” The wines are all wooded and they are magnificent in their class and deservedly top Chenin Blancs. The prices range from R70 to R375, an average of R200 a bottle. But we did miss the fresh unwooded wines, which are very popular and also sell so well

Winemaker Carl van der Merwe's signature is on this beautiful rounded Chenin, with minerality and elegance, apple blossom on the complex nose. Oak wood, butter, then crisp limes, lemon, and nectarine, it has depth and length and dry with minerality and some chalk, ending in fine wood. R375
Wildekrans 2017 Barrel Selection. Honey and orange marmalade, floral with orange blossom on the nose. Honey notes, round, crisp lemon freshness, nectarines & long lush flavours. R228
La Cave 2016 from Wellington Winery has a round grassy nose, with flinty smoke. On the palate, richness, fullness, baked apple, marmalade bitterness that is wood, with minerality and another hint of wood smoke on the end. R100
Stellenrust 2017 Barrel Fermented. Grassy and floral, with melon, apple, pineapple and litchi with gentle wood, the latter supporting but present. R200
Spier 21 Gables 2017 in a top line up yet again. Golden Chenin nose, grassy with soft smoke. Good fruit acidity, then lots of wood flavours from light to dark, fruit follows with intense quince and juicy white pears 
Slanghoek Wynkelder Legends Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut) has tropical notes on the nose and lime and apricots with butterscotch wood on the full palate.
Mulderbosch Steen op Hout Chenin Blanc 2017 (debut) is a very popular wine. Brandy wood, dry grass, apricots and cooked apple with minerality on the nose, wood and apples, lemon & limes, wood and minerality echo on the palate. It has a long finish and is very satisfying
Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Chenin Blanc 2016. Shy with smoky grass and passion fruit on the nose; 9 months in 500 litre barrels. Exciting entry, rich zingy fruit, nicely rounded, apples, pears, peaches; a good acid and fruit balance. Dark toasted wood right at the end
Jean Daneel Wines Signature Chenin Blanc 2016 (debut), Made by Jean Daneel's son, Jean-Pierre. Father has guided him well; this is a lovely wine in the family tradition. Elegant minerality and hints of sea breezes on the nose. Rich dark caramel fruit, stewed apple, more caramel wood. The fruit is vying with the wood to come to the fore and the wine ends with limes and lemons and flinty smoke
Ellerman House Sommelier Melusi Magodhi and Pieter du Toit of Cederberg Private Cellar. Cederberg Private Cellar Five Generations Chenin Blanc 2016 has a lovely apple blossom nose, with apples and pears dominating the full palate and just gentle wooding supporting this good wine
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

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