making & styles

Versatile fruit from the Cape's blessed and wide terroir

Chenin Blanc in South Africa has extensive depth in terms of vineyards, terroir diversity and winemaking expertise. The grape's exceptional versatility and the excellent selection of fruit available, due to the Cape Winelands' wide terroir, provide for great variety of style. Winemaking techniques depend on the style of wine desired. The CBA has found that the number of styles (although the versatility a strong point of the variety) confuses the consumer. By previously classifying chenin wines into six styles, with residual sugar levels as a key factor, the CBA had hoped to clarify consumers’ confused perceptions.

Since 2010 the CBA has embarked on a joint research project with the Institute for Wine Biotechnology and the Sensory Research Unit of The University of Stellenbosch. The main investigations identified the key sensory and chemical features of the various styles (fresh and fruity, rich and ripe, sweet). At present the focus is on two main styles which are fresh, vibrant white fruits, with a zest and crisp finish on the one hand and full ripe, rich wines with oak barrel fermentation and aging making for complex powerful wines on the other hand. There is also the oxidative 'natural" wine movement and chenin does really well here.

While most South African Chenin Blanc wines are still made in a fresh and fruity style, that is changing. More and more producers are focussing on mature bushvines. The fact is unassailable; the most intensely flavoured Chenin Blanc wines come from older vines that have been carefully managed for balanced yields. They prune these dramatically to cut down on yields, pick the grapes riper and often introduce oak fermentation and maturation. Chenin Blanc is a very responsive variety - it will give back in the bottle what the winemaker has put into the vineyard and in the cellar.
  

    
Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa

ina.smith@iafrica.com