Chenin Blanc: My Journey from Naysayer to Yaysayer

Until recently, my knowledge of Chenin Blanc was extremely limited and the little exposure I had to it was unfortunate to say the least.  I’m all for the “cheap & cheerful” options but the nauseatingly sweet or overly acidic varieties have left me with bitter memories. (unbearable hangovers as a result of being falling-down drunk.)  Sure, excessive consumption of said varieties didn’t help either but my memories have been preserved this way, this I cannot change.

Fast Forward a Few Years

I am no expert but I am in a more inquisitive place and have begun a journey into learning as well as becoming more open minded about wine.  More importantly, South African wine.
Recently I was lucky enough to experience the boutique wine and food festival, Noble Vice earlier this year where I naively asked “why is there so much Chenin Blanc here?”

So What is Chenin Blanc?

Chenin Blanc is South Africa’s most widely planted varietal.  It is also one of the oldest wine grapes with the most premium quality grown in Stellenbosch and Swartland regions.  It is not only South Africa’s wine making pioneers championing this cultivar but also smaller, boutique wine makers.  Thriving in the South African climate it has been referred to as a “workhorse” and has been a choice variety for volume production. This is probably why I’ve always chosen to ignore it and assume that it was all easy-drinking, table wine.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that this versatile gem is not only found in the “house plonk” section of restaurant wine lists.

Chenin Blanc Comes In a Variety of Flavour Profiles

There is dry, off-dry, sweet and sparkling, not just the easy-drinking, fruity kind. There are more concentrated and complex flavours and my most exciting discovery of all, the oaky, full-bodied flavours. I have discovered a whole new world of barrel fermentation; Chenin Blanc so creamy and buttery you could mop it up with freshly baked bread. This of course has me thinking about some interesting food and wine pairings.

That’s right friends, I will no longer be reaching for that trusty wooded Chardonnay exclusively but rather putting my wine prejudice aside and opening myself up to new and exciting wines.

The Winners of the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge

Cederberg Cellars Five Generations 2017
DeMorgenzon Reserve 2018
Durbanville Hills Collector’s Reserve The Cape Garden 2018
Flagstone Tributary Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2018
Ken Forrester Wines The FMC 2018
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2018
Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection 2018
Rijk’s Touch of Oak 2017
Slanghoek Legends Barrel Fermented 2017
Stellenrust The Mothership 2018

With so much more to learn and so many incredible wines to taste, I’d say I’m in for a beautiful, wine-filled summer!

Until next time, Cheers!

Kerry Sonn

Kerry Sonn

Most recently a finalist on the hit TV series, My Kitchen Rules South Africa, Kerry is a freelance food creative and passionate wine enthusiast. She’s obsessed with buttery Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Her favourite wine farm is Groot Constantia (not only for the incredible wine but the views and restaurants too!)

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