Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa masterclass

By Suzannah Ramsdale At the end of a jam-packed day tasting countless wines, the positive and upbeat mood of Ken Forrester and his co-presenter, Ross Sleet was just the ticket.

In a manner suitable for both experts and beginners alike, they colourfully and eloquently talked the audience through the characteristic and traits of the Chenin Blanc grape.

‘I would compare Chenin Blanc to a squash ball,’ said Ken Forrester. ‘You can squash it, bash it around and it will still go back to its original shape. It’s utterly forgiving. It absorbs flavour but it still comes back with soft ripe fruit.’

In what was essentially an optimistic look at the future of Chenin Blanc in South Africa, the buzz words of the day were ‘opportunity’ and ‘versatility.’

As they talked the assembled guests through the six wines which they felt best represented the all-important versatility of the Chenin Blanc, one couldn’t help feeling that South Africa was a step closer to making Chenin Blanc the ‘natural default for South Africa.’

Quote from presenter: ‘Chenin Blanc is nothing new for us in South Africa, we’ve been making Chenin Blanc for 350 years, in fact, sitting here at this New World Fine Wine Encounter we’re interested as to when we’ll be considered part of the Old World.’ – Ken Forrester.

Quote from readers: ‘I really enjoyed it. I particularly enjoyed Ken Forrester’s metaphors, it was very easy to follow.’

‘It was great. They way they broke down the history, science and geography of it all was great, having never been to South Africa it gave me a real sense of the place.’

Surprise of the day: To illustrate the sheer pace and focus of winemaking development in South Africa Ken Forrester told the audience that 200 wineries had emerged in the last three years alone, the equivalent to one per week. A staggering statistic.

Tasting notes

Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2008

On the nose one was initially hit by floral notes which followed through onto the palate. These gentle floral hints at the back of the mouth were then superceded by intense tangerine, pear and apple flavours. It was mineral in character with brilliant ripeness, balance and acidity.

Riebeek Reserve Chenin Blanc 2008

This had richer and rounder flavours on the nose than the Cederberg and oak was prominent. This wine had a wonderful concentration and was full of zesty, citrus fruits.

Hildenbrand Estate Chenin Blanc 2007

This was simply bursting with ripe tropical fruits. Hints of pineapple, peach, melon all combined for a fresh and tangy bite. It had a delightful walnut finish which added to its depth and complexity.

Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc 2008

This full-bodied Chenin Blanc was packed with delicious apricot, peach and pineapple flavours. It had a slight smokey, oak character to it which made for a smooth finish on the palate.

Raats Chenin Blanc 2006

The palate erupted with a lovely intensity of fruit. Peach, apricot, green apple and melon flavours were all packed in to this big, bold Chenin Blanc. Just a hint of soft chalkiness gave it a creamy finish.

Ken Forrester FMC 2007

This young wine had a golden rich colour with a hint of greenness. On the nose, aromas of tropical fruit wafted with hints of marmalade. Initial traces of soft coconut milk and almond characteristics gave way to dried apricot flavours which climaxed off with a sweet yet sour grapefruit finish.

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Written by Suzannah Ramsdale