2019 Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge Winners

This year’s winners of the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge provide ample evidence of South Africa’s major advances with the variety, according to Ina Smith, manager of the Chenin Blanc Association.

“The growing focus on Chenin by international tastemakers has undoubtedly raised the quality benchmark,” says the association’s chairman, Ken Forrester. “It’s fair to say that the recent international Chenin Blanc congress, held in Angers, France, demonstrated to delegates just how far South African producers have succeeded with the variety, in terms of both quality and stylistic range. We think you will find convincing expression of this in the 2019 Challenge line-up, chosen from 150 entries submitted by 87 producers.”

Forrester said a key takeout from the congress in Angers, the home of Chenin Blanc in France, was that the Chenin excellence attained by many South African winemakers in recent years had prompted the French to give more serious attention to the grape. He highlighted a recent comment by British critic, Tim Atkin MW, writing for Harpers, that: “The French may be reluctant to admit it, yet I think that South Africa’s achievements with Chenin have influenced winemakers in Anjou and Touraine, the way that Argentinian Malbec has inspired Cahors and promoted links between the two”.

“What’s important,” added Forrester, “is that increasing critical and academic attention is good for Chenin wherever it is produced.”

He pointed to new research confirming that Chenin, believed to have originated around 500 years ago, was the offspring of two French white grapes, Savagnin and Sauvignonasse.

While previously grown almost exclusively by South Africa and France, it is now cultivated in 23 countries and has become the world’s 26th most planted variety, covering somewhere between 33 000 hectares and 36 000 ha. South Africa accounts for most plantings, totalling just over 17 000 ha.

The Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge 2019 winning wines.

Commenting on this year’s winners, judging chair, Cathy van Zyl MW said the majority of the top ten were sourced from vines 30 years and older, including one, made from vines planted 55 years ago. “However, there were also wines made from vines just 10 and eight years’ old, demonstrating what good winegrowing and winemaking can achieve.” Five of the top ten had been produced from Stellenbosch vines, with the others using fruit from the Cederberg, Durbanville, Paarl, Slanghoek and Wellington.

Stephan van der Merwe, who heads Standard Bank’s commercial banking arm in the Western Cape, said he was encouraged to see that the average price per bottle for the winning wines had risen to R255,80 this year, compared with the average in 2018 of R200. “South African winemakers producing to world-class standards certainly deserve fair compensation and with prices starting at R108, there is still very good value to be found on the list of winners.”

Standard Bank has awarded a cash prize of R25 000 for each of the winning wines to be spent by producers in a way that “reinforces economic and social benefits in the workplace".

The winners, in alphabetical order, were:

• Cederberg Cellars Five Generations Chenin Blanc 2017
• DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2018
• Durbanville Hills Collector's Reserve The Cape Garden Chenin Blanc 2018 (new)
• Flagstone Winery Tributary Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2018 (new)
• Ken Forrester Wines The FMC 2018 (new)
• Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2018
• Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc 2018
• Rijk's Cellar Touch of Oak Chenin Blanc 2017
• Slanghoek Wynkelder Legends Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2017
• Stellenrust The Mothership Chenin Blanc 2018

Snapshot of winning wines:

Producer Wine Vintage Alcohol RS TA pH Oak Vintage Price
Cederberg Cellars Five Generations 2017 13.8% 5.7g/l 6.2g/l 3.5 33% new French 13 years R230
DeMorgenzon Reserve 2018 14.28% 3.8g/l 6g/l 3.29 20% new French 47 years R400
Durbanville Hills Collector's Reserve The Cape Garden 2018 13.05% 1.94g/l 6.45g/l 3.27 30% new oak, mostly French, 4% American 11 years R150
Flagstone Winery Tributary Bush Vine 2018 14.31% 2.8g/l 6.1g/l 3.22 70% new French 39, 32 years R110
Ken Forrester Wines The FMC 2018 13% 7.6g/l 6.2g/l 3.34 58% new French 45 years R550
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2018 13.25% 4.8g/l 6.7g/l 3.24 Older French oak 40 years R210
Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection 2018 13.53% 5.7g/l 7.1g/l 3.02 Older French oak 30 years R108
Rijk's Cellar Touch of Oak 2017 14.4% 2.7g/l 6.2g/l 3.19 Older French oak 8 years R110
Slanghoek Wynkelder Legends Barrel Fermented 2017 13.16% 4.5g/l 5.9g/l 3.45 50% new French 30 years R210
Stellenrust The Mothership 2018 13.4% 3.3g/l 7.5g/l 3.18 Old foudre, 38% concrete egg 55 years R480

2019 Judging Panel:

Cathy van Zyl MW (chair)
Richard Kershaw MW
James Pietersen (Wine Cellar)
Joseph Dhafana (La Colombe)
Fabien Laine (French-based former sommelier, wine judge, social media entrepreneur)
Penelope Setti (Chef’s Warehouse) - Associate Judge

2018 Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge Winners

Pure fruit, more texture, greater structure, versatility and pushed boundaries is what Chenin Blanc is all about. True to form, that is what the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge uncovered at this third successive competition.

News of the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge winners for 2018, featuring five newcomers and five regulars, comes in the wake of unprecedented optimism in the grape variety.

“Chenin has come of age,” said chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association, Ken Forrester. “No longer just a niche grape loved by of the wine fraternity, it is acquiring a mainstream following. More and more people are believing in it, buying it, drinking it and talking about it,” he said referring to the record number of entries in this year’s challenge, the growth in sales of Chenin Blanc this year, and the global reach of a recent social media campaign.

He said this year’s 159 submissions represented an increase of 17% on the 2017 challenge entry numbers, while year-on-year, local sales and exports of Chenin Blanc varietal wines are on the rise. Forrester also highlighted the success of the #DrinkChenin day social media campaign to mark June 15 as International Chenin Day that generated 4.9 million impressions.

“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.

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.

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 judging panel of this year’s Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge comprised (from left to right): Tinashe Nyamudoka, James Pietersen, Richard Kershaw MW, Cathy van Zyl MW (chair), Simon Field (MW) and Spencer Fondaumiere (associate judge).

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.

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.”

Pointing to the availability of Chenin excellence at accessible prices, Willie du Plessis, Standard Bank SA's executive head of business banking for the Western Cape, noted that the average price of the top 10 wines was R200. “These world-class wines offer outstanding value, with winners retailing at R70, R90, R120 before rising to the highest price of R375.”

He confirmed a prize of R25 000 for each of the winning wines. The money would need "to reinforce economic and social benefits in the workplace", in accordance with the conditions of the challenge. "We believe the honour of making it onto the Top Ten list should extend to the workers as well as the brand owners.”

The winning wines listed alphabetically are:

• 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)

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. 

SA Champions hailed in inaugral 2017 Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge Winners

The 2017 Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge attracted 136 entries, up almost 10% on 2016, with all the major wine-producing areas represented. The five-member judging panel, tasting all submissions blind, short-listed 33 wines for consideration before deciding on the ten eventual winners.

The CBA has been running the annual Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge since 2014 and is working across various fronts to raise the reputation of Chenin Blanc, South Africa's most widely planted varietal. These efforts have played a key role in establishing the country's quality credentials amongst international wine critics, writers and other influencers in recent years, with Chenin Blanc now widely recognised as South Africa's calling card.



Standard Bank backs South Africa's most planted Grape Variety - Chenin Blanc

The Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa is proud to announce the signing of a three year sponsorship agreement with Standard Bank in support of a Top 10 Chenin Blanc Competition, to be known as the Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge.

The Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa represents around 120 premium South African Chenin Blanc producers.

The reward to the top 10 winners will be financial and specifically designed to reinforce the economic and social benefits to the workplace and workforce. Winners will receive R25 000 each and the money must be used to reinforce the economic and social benefits in the workplace and to the workforce. We are proud of our association with Standard Bank because great partnerships make great business and we really look forward to making Chenin Blanc the iconic, quality, South African white wine grape says Ken Forrester, Chenin Blanc Association Chairperson.

Standard Bank is always pleased to partner with key role players within South African business sectors that contribute significantly towards our economy. The South African Wine Industry Stats (SAWIS) shows that in 2012 we were the eighth largest wine producer in the world in terms of litres produced. The figures also show that around 320 million litres of wine were sold domestically, and 410 million litres were exported during 2012 says Nico Groenewald, Head of Agribusiness at Standard Bank.

In line with this, it made sense for us to join forces with the Chenin Blanc Association in support of this initiative, says Nico Groenewald.


Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa