Revelling in Chenin Blanc

Thursday, 5 September, 2019
WOSA Blog, Fiona McDonald
Gnarled, twisted stumpy little vines stuck out between rows of lush bright green cover crop. Here and there was the odd gap or an obviously younger vine being cultivated. Planted in 1952 this block of Chenin Blanc is just one of South Africa’s vinous treasures and is what creates Bosman’s highly regarded Optenhorst Chenin Blanc.

It was supposed to be ripped out in 2007 but winemaker Corlea Fourie pleaded its case. “We’re fairly certain it’s a massal selection with a variety of clones and rootstocks all interplanted,” Fourie said.

She was part of a group of Chenin focussed folks who had just returned from the Chenin Blanc International Congress, held in Angers, France – and also inducted into the Confrerie Chevaliers de la Chantepleure Vouvray alongside a few other fellow South African Chenin imbongis.

South Africa is to host the next event in July 2021. “What can we possibly do to try and measure up to the history and tradition that they have in the Loire?” Fourie mused.

Having just read Tim Atkin’s thoughts on how South Africa’s performance on the world stage – with Chenin Blanc – had actually reinvigorated the Loire’s efforts and improved their sales, it was surprising to hear.

Can South Africa compete with the Loire’s tradition and fraternal organisations? No. But is it necessary when South African Chenin Blanc, particularly old vine Chenin, is patently thriving and reinvigorating a category that was almost moribund until 25 years ago.

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