26 August, 2013

Quarters - The Wine Show: South African Chenin Blanc

Quarters the Wine Show is an idea cooked up by Tanisha Townsend (@girlmeetsglass) Lauren Mowery (@chasingthevine) and me while at WBC13.  We were inspired to create a fun, shareable way to make us study more different kinds of wines from places we would love to visit someday. 
Of course, first on our collective bucket list was South Africa.  Since we knew the hard travelling Lauren would be out of the country, Tanisha and I started with a wine we were curious about: Chenin Blanc.  

Thanks to the wonderful Ina Smith who manages the South Africa Chenin Blanc Association (follow her on facebook here) my research was easy.  Surprising for "New World" wine, Chenin Blanc arrived on the Cape in 1655.  Its journey from cutting to vine continued over the years.  This variety  known by the French, as Chenin Blanc - had approximately thirty other names in South Africa. In 1963, the then Head of Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch, Professor C.J Orffer, matched Steen and Chenin Blanc leaves and finally pronounced Steen, Chenin Blanc.  A rose, by any other name, etc--- or in this case and important green grape, which ends up being delicious. And age does matter, as the South Africa producers find older vines, 40 years or older, produce the best fruit. 

The climate matters too and most of the premium Chenin Blanc is grown in Stellenbosch.  Its location at the foot of the mountains and with access to cooling breezes is importantnt as the variety tolerates heat, but needs a cooling element to be successful.  Stellenbosch has a great website with handy tips for visiting.  You can find out more here and dream of visiting in person.

We also tried some samples.  I had one that I found for my BrixChicks South Africa cuisine throwdowm, where we paired wines with Amawele South African Kitchen's Bunny Chow a spicy stew with heat to spare and exotic flavors of curry leaf, turmeric and coriander seed served in a cooling fresh white bread bowl.  My Little J from Joostenberg actually came from old unirrigated Chenin Blanc vines in the Paarl region.  5% Viognier boosted the peachiness.  Three months on the lees also helped with stonefruit aromas.  The wine retained nice acid and just  a touch of residual sugar(3.3 g/l) to tame the heat. Success once again from my "grows with/goes with" philosophy.  The producer recommends curry and it worked well.  More about Joostenberg here
During the Quarters episode, I try a Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc.  This winery was started in 1689 and is still producing delicious wines today.

According to the CBA, the most popular styles of South African Chenin Blanc are:
[1] fresh and fruity, often with citrus aromas and flavours and bright acidity and always unwooded;
[2] rich and ripe unwooded with lees contact, rich aromas and flavours, often of ripe stone fruit
[3] rich and ripe oaked wines that are usually rich in ripe, almost honeyed fruit, although some put the emphasis on minerals
 [4] sweet wines 
So Tanisha and I tried 3 of the four and are still looking for more.

I attached the link to Quarters - The Wine Show Episode One

Tonight : August 26th we will have Episode Two: PINOTAGE
We will tweet out the link at 5:00 Pacific. Hope to see you there!

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