The April edition of Decanter, one of the UK’s leading wine publications, includes a rather comprehensive tasting of South African Chenin Blancs available in the British market. The publication’s tasting panel* sniffed, sipped and swirled their way through 155 wines in order to get an overall picture of how the grape is shaping up as a South African offering. The wines ranged in price from less than £6 to the mid 20 Pound range.

The Decanter Award of 5 stars was only awarded to one wine from all those assessed. It went to our 2010 La Capra Chenin Blanc!

La Capra Chenin BlancThis is a fantastic achievement for our brand and again emphasizes the great value of this range of wines. Congratulations to our winemakers on the consistent quality achievements with this range.

Decanter’s description of the the top rated wine:

“Cool and complex nose of ripe stone fruit, herbs, guava, nettles and pear. Some attractive grip and distinct skin contact apparent on the palate. A fresh, vibrant and fruity wine with chalky minerality, excellent balance and a long juicy finish.”

In addition our 2010 Fairview Darling Chenin Blanc received 3 stars, as did the 2010 Chenin Blanc from our sister cellar in the Swartland, The Spice Route Winery.

Chenin Blanc is a grape variety that many South African producers have been placing a lot of emphasis on in the past few years, with the result that there are some incredible examples being made, in a range of styles. The grape lends itself to interpretation and location, with the result that there are big bold barrel fermented examples and fresh fruit driven versions.

South Africa still has some of (if not the?) largest plantings of Chenin Blanc in the world, including a number of old vine sites. Although many of the latter have been grubbed up, there is a strong drive from leading producers to stop the practice and recognise the value of these old gnarled vines. This Chenin Blanc heritage is stronger than in other so-called new world producers with the result that these wines have increasingly been seized upon as a calling card for for SA wine.

With this is mind it was concerning to read the Decanter article, as the overall tone was negative towards South African Chenin Blanc. The comments and criticism from the panel highlighted their opinion that aside from a small selection of wines, the majority were average and not fitting to be positioned as a calling card for the country.

Wine writer, lovers and drinkers are all entitled to their own opinions and as  mentioned above, one of the beauties of  this grape is that it can cater to many tastes. But when the opinions of an influential panel are at something of a contrast to the general sentiment in South Africa it is worth considering more deeply.

We have all seen the statistics around the falling sales of South African wines in the UK market and Chenin Blanc is one of the grape varieties that Su Birch and her WOSA team have been encouraged to punt. With that in mind, these sorts of results become increasingly important. One of our key UK retailers of La Capra Chenin Blanc commented that when Decanter went on sale they had a flood of requests for the wine and sold out in a flash. (More is on the way as we speak!) So while this is great for Fairview it also highlights the fact that the publication has an impact on purchasing and so the negative sentiment is unlikely to go unnoticed.

We remain positive about the position and future of South African Chenin Blanc in general, and will continue to work hard to establish our style and constantly lift our quality. That La Capra Chenin Blanc has found favour in this tasting is fantastic and we are very confident about the quality of these wines. Perhaps an appropriate comment regarding our approach to Chenin Blanc was from The Wine Society buyer Joanna Locke MW: ”How do you get customers to see Chenin Blanc as a ‘must have’ wine and trade up?”

Top performers in the Decanter April 2011 South African Chenin Blanc tasting:

5 Stars Decanter Award :

  • La Capra presented by Fairview Chenin Blanc 2010

4 stars – highly recommended:

  • Tierhoek 2009
  • Lourensford Matumi 2010
  • Simonsig Avec Chene 2009
  • Springfontein Terroir Selection Unfiltered 2009
  • Boschendal 2010
  • KWV Classic 2010
  • KWV Cathedral Cellar 2009
  • Land of Hope 2009
  • Selfridges (Ken Forrester) 2009
  • Perdeberg Rex Equus 2008

*Tasting panel comprised Christine Parkinson (buyer for Michelin-starred restaurants), Nancy Gichrist MW (wine lecturer and columnist), Margaret Rand (writer and former editor of Wine Magazine), Greg Sherwood MW (buyer), Sarah Ahmed (wine writer and blogger), Joanna Locke MW (buyer at The Wine Society) and Gerard Barnes (buyer for Raisin Social).

Let us know what you think. Should Chenin Blanc be the calling card white grape variety for South Africa? Leave a comment below.

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5 Comments on La Capra Chenin Blanc grabs 5 stars in Decanter

  1. [...] I’m still waiting for my April issue of Decanter to arrive in the letter box, but a recent posting on A Word from the Herd, the Fairview Wine blog alerted me to a tasting report in the magazine that is going to upset many [...]

  2. Peter F May says:

    Pray tell us who the UK stockist(s) of the Capra Chenin are …..

  3. Hi Peter,
    Liberty Wines are the importers in the UK. To date it has been selling mainly through SA Wines Online (who have sold out completely following the Decanter rating – with some on the way). The Chenin Blanc does not have a high street listing as yet (the La Capra Chardonnay and Pinotage are in Waitrose, and the Rose in the Co-op) but I’ll try to find out some more details and let you know.
    Any area in particular?

  4. Peter F May says:

    St Albans, Herts
     I thought it’d go well in a tasting I’m doing soon.

  5. Hi Peter,
    It seems that there is not stock available at the moment, since SA Wines Online sold out. Hopefully with the new shipment there will be more retailers with the wine available.

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