Botanica Chenin Blanc 2011

Botanica Chenin Blanc Grapes

Chenin Blanc, the versatile white wine variety, which hails from the Anjou region in the Loire Valley in France, produces a range of styles from bone dry through to rich and sweet. Good examples include unwooded, dry to off dry wines as well as some excellent sparkling wines. Chenin Blanc  is also used to make our highly successful and competitive table brandies .This versatility has allowed it to become the biggest grape variety planted in the Cape taking 18% of vineyard area, far more than its home in France!

Sometimes referred to in South Africa as steen  , the emphasis today is on elevating increased quality in the production of these wines.  The Chenin Blanc Association was formed in 1999 with its aim to ensure that our local Chenin Blanc takes its rightful place with other great white wines of the world. Since then we have seen prominent  Chenin Blanc producers,  giving meticulous attention to their vineyards along with innovative vinification,  resulting in making top quality Chenin Blanc wines which can easily rival any other classic  varietal.

An invitation last week by the Association to taste 26 Chenins with the idea of them being enjoyed during the winter months ahead was an incredible experience. The line up included several of South Africa’s finest Chenins available on the market today and drawn from diverse regions and terroir. After an introduction by Chenin Blanc Association spokesman, Ken Forrester, (whose magnificent FMC 2010 was in the line up) we were led through the 26 wines by Chenin Blanc guru, Villiera’s Jeff Grier. The wines were outstanding with each of them expressing how the variety adapts so well to the different regions and soils. I was also pleased to see the considerable improvement with the subtle and clever use of oak along with the fruit, which resulted in fresher, approachable wines with fine tuned balance.  After the tasting we were able to experience the same wines with the delicious menu designed for the occasion by Virgil Kahn, Chef at Indochine Restaurant on the Delaire Graff Estate.

Beautiful Botanical labels

It was difficult  to select one from this formidable line up for this week’s column but, I felt the one that went particularly well with the food, especially the starter of Thai Duck, was the Botanica Chenin Blanc 2011.

Botanica is the wine brand created by American owner, Ginny Povall, who controls all her wine activities on her property in the Devon Valley, outside Stellenbosch, despite the grapes coming from far and wide! The grapes for this Chenin Blanc are sourced from vineyards high up in the mountains close to Clanwilliam. Due to the lack of water these vineyards are dry farmed which results in a small production of approximately 2.5 tons per hectare from the 50 year old bush vines!

With its beautiful label of a botanical collage created by artist Mary Delany in the late 1700’s (Ginny was fortunate enough to obtain a license to use a few of Delany’s  collages for her wines) 50% of the wine was fermented in 400 litre French oak barrels and later matured for several months in similar oak. The result is an off dry style wine with gorgeous subtle tropical fruit aromas with hints of fresh apricot which leads you to a rich silky palate offering intense fruit concentration and a lovely grip of fresh acidity. This is Ginny’s third vintage and she feels it is the best one so far, so  no surprise then that the wine was awarded 5 stars in the 2013 John Platter Guide!

Expect to Pay R148.50

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