This is my white wine discovery of the year in my recently published South Africa report. Sourced fromthe little-known area of Montagu, it’s a brilliant Chenin Blanc (Steen) made by three friends, including the talented Reenen Boorman of Boschkloof. Formerly sold off to the local co-op, these grapes have produced something remarkable in the first vintage under their own label: saline, textured and mealy with some skin tannins, wax and spice and perfectly judged oak. One of the Cape’s best Chenins.
Bruwer Raats makes some of the best Chenin Blancs in South Africa, expressing precision and place rather than tropical fruit flavours. This Fairtrade-accredited example is very lightly oaked, with just a whiff of cinnamon and vanilla to complement the pear, citrus and stone fruit nuances. Tangy and refreshing with a stony bite.
Englishman Richard Kershaw has followed up his 2012 release with a wine that’s every bit as good. This is a smoky, minerally, citrus-tinged, stylishly constructed Chardonnay that whispers of its cool climate origins in Elgin. Discreet and subtle, it’s a wine with texture, harmony and palate length. One of the Cape’s best examples of the grape.
Kleine Zalze deserves to be more famous than it is in South Africa. It consistently turns out a very good range of commercial wines, as well as smaller quantities of top end stuff. This belongs in the latter category and it’s a great example of ripe, tropically fruity Cape Chenin. Pineapple and melon notes are balanced by the refreshing acidity that’s the variety’s calling card and rounded out by subtle oak fermentation.
If you’d rather drink Piat d’Or than most Pinotage, this off-beat example from the Franschhoek Valley might change your mind about this controversial South Africa grape. Gottfried Mocke’s red is made in an unusual (unique for the Cape?) style that uses the ripasso technique of refrementing the wine on its skins and it’s brilliant, with flavours of plum, spice and mulberry, subtle oak and just the right amount of tannin for backbone.
Ken “Mr Chenin” Forrester has done as much as anyone to resurrect the reputation of the Cape’s best white variety in the last decade or so. This off-dry example from 35-year-old vines is typical of his deceptively drinkable style. Nutmeg spice, pear and an undertone of tropical fruit combine nicely here, with Chenin’s characteristic acidity providing a bite of welcome acidity.