88

2012 Zalze Chenin Blanc Reserve, Coastal Region

( £9.99, 13.5%, Sainsbury's )

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. 

Drinking window: 2014-16Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, South Africa, White, Chenin Blanc
88

2012 Ken Forrester Workhorse Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch

( £7.99 down to £5.99, 14%, Marks )

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. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-15Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, South Africa, White, Chenin Blanc
89

2009 The Liberator (This Bird Has Flown), Swartland

( £11.95, 14.5%, The Wine Society )

This Cape blend of Chenin, Viognier, Chardonnay and Clairetter Blanche won’t be to everyone’s taste – it’s got some age to it and a developed, Sherry-like not – but I salute its ambiiton and left field flavours. Rich and honeyed, with some vanilla and nutmeg spice, fresh acidity and bags of concentration. Appealingly funky. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-14Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, South Africa, White, Bical, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Clairette, Viognier

The Swartland Revolution

by Tim Atkin
Every revolution needs a spark, a catalyst that changes things forever. It might not compare with the storming of the Bastille or the fall of the Berlin Wall, but the...
87

2012 Château de la Roulerie, Les Grandes Bosses, Anjou, Loire Valley

( £9, 13%, Oddbins )

Possibly a little closed at the moment, but this dry Loire Chenin Blanc hints at good things to come in the glass. Tangy, taut and crisp, with pure green apple fruit, lovely focus and a minerally backdrop. Time should confer more weight and some honeyed, bottle-developed characters. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-16Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, France, White, Chenin Blanc
94

2005 Château Pierre-Bise, Coteaux du Layon Rochefort, Loire Valley

( £17.50 for 50cl, 11.5%, Stone, Vine & Sun )

Sweet wine heaven! I often prefer the Chenin Blancs from the Loire to Sauternes and, sure enough,  this is a candidate for my dessert wine  of the year. It’s very rich, yet elegant and poised at the same time, with only 11.5% alcohol. Honey, apple, quice and vivid acidity combine to perfection on your tongue. A remarkable wine that only seems to get better with age. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-18Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, France, White, Chenin Blanc
93

2010 Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc, Bot River

( £16, 13%, The Wine Society )

Rightly awarded Five Stars in the recent edition of South Africa’s Platter Guide, this is a sublime Cape Chenin Blanc. It’s made in a Chenin meets Chardonnay style, with vanilla-scented barrel fermentation and some nice texture from the lees. The Chenin part provides fresh acidity, notes of apple and subtle tropical fruit and a fine finish. The wine should develop further over the next two or three years. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-16Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, South Africa, White, Chenin Blanc
91

2011 Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, Les Dix Arpents, Montlouis, Loire

( £15.99 down to £11.99, 13%, Waitrose )

The 2011 vintage was a tricky one in the Loire, but this wine is gloriously unaffected. It’s a pure, dry, oak-matured Chenin Blanc which combines notes of apples, honey and pears with some sweet vanilla and assertive, mouthwatering acidity. A delicious wine from the talented Jacky Blot.  

BuyDrinking window: 2012-20Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, France, White, Chenin Blanc
92

2010 Domaine des Forges, Côteaux du Layon, Loire Valley

( £7.99 down to £5.99, 11.5%, Waitrose )

You only get a half bottle of this for your money, but I wouldn’t complain. When they are this good, Loire sweet wines wipe the winery floor with similarly priced stickies from Sauternes. There’s some old oak used to age the wine, but it’s just there as a background note, supporting the stylish, minerally, honey and ripe pear flavours. This is liquid tarte tatin, a delicious Coteaux du Layon from the Premier Cru slopes of Chaume. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: £5-£10, 91-95, France, White, Chenin Blanc