Head through the tunnel and see the light. The Chenin Blanc light. For in the magnificent Breedekloof Valley, one of South Africa’s great wine regions accessed through the Du Toitskloof Tunnel some 80km from Cape Town, the newly formed Chenin Blanc Initiative is exposing wine lovers to some of the best and most expressive Chenin Blanc wines in the country.
Currently nine of the 22 wineries who are members of the Breedekloof Wine Valley have produced unique, individually-crafted small-batch wines to showcase that which the Valley believes nobody does better: Chenin Blanc.
“This region is the home of South African Chenin Blanc,” says WS Naudé, winemaker at Daschbosch, part of the uniWines Group outside Rawsonville and one of the members of the Chenin Blanc Initiative. “The access to water through the Smalblaar, Molenaars and Breede Rivers, the sunshine and cold nights and the fertile soils have resulted in Chenin Blanc having been the backbone of this region’s wine industry for centuries.”
The Daschbosch Steen 2014, especially made for the Chenin Blanc Initiative was made from 24 year-old vines growing in the southern part of the Breedekloof Valley outside Rawsonville.
“The soils are sandy with plenty of rocks, yields being in the vicinity of 12 tons,” says WS. “We pick ripe, and I really like to give the Chenin Blanc a few days lees contact in the tank. To give the wine individuality I hold back on the sulphur and used an oxidative winemaking approach.”
Half of the juice was left to a wild ferment, with the other half inoculated.
“I used old vats to add structure and dimension, without overpowering the wine with wood,” says WS. “Once again, lees is all important for flavour and complexity. Six months on the gross lees, racked and three on the fine lees.”
The result? Savoury undertones and a minerality of lasting freshness. On the fruit side, the Daschbosch Steen lends towards peach and melon, with a slight nuttiness.
Goudini Wines is also one of the nine members in the Chenin Blanc Initiative, with Hendrik Myburgh representing this familiar cellar just outside Rawsonville on the project.
“This is such a great initiative to be part of – not only for our cellar, but for the whole region,” he says. “If there is one grape variety that is going to put us on the map, it is Chenin Blanc.”
Goudini, is an indigenous word for bitter honey, although the wines are tasty.
For the Chenin Blanc Initiative, Hendrik made the Goudini Mirabilis Regis-Filia Chenin Blanc 2014. And the wine is just as a mouthful as the name!
“I think that one of the reasons we are able to grow Chenin Blanc grapes of such high quality is the longer time the fruit spends on the vine,” he says. “In the valley we only harvest our Chenin at the end of February and beginning March, weeks later than other Cape wine regions. This allows the fruit to obtain a depth of flavour that is any winemaker’s dream to work with.”
The grapes for the Goudini Mirabilis Regis-Filia Chenin Blanc 2014 grow on sandy soils which also have a rich organic component.
“Only free-run juice was used,” says Hendrik. “Wild ferment brought the sugar down to 16°Balling, whereafter we inoculated. But the influence of the wild yeast is evident in the composure of the mouthfeel.”
The wine was aged for 14 months in new and second fill French oak, and a 14% portion of fresh wine from the 2015 vintage was added to spruce things up.
“Orange peel and citrus come to the fore, and are kept there due to the complex mouthfeel,” says Hendrik. “It has a lingering, satisfying aftertaste and is simply the kind of Chenin I have always wanted to make. And fortunately for the Breedekloof Chenin Blanc Initiative, I have been given the chance to do so.”
Come and meet the winemakers and taste the wines of the Breedekloof Chenin Blanc Initiative at Cape Wine.