528 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 76 PART 4 JULY 2018
Traditionally, most South African Chenin has been made in a fresh and
fruit-forward “new world” style. Recently there has been more attention
placed upon oaked versions. Two South African winemakers explain the
goal with oaked Chenin.
Oaked Chenins exhibit woody or nutty characteristics, including notes of
sweet spices, toast, vanilla and cream, and a ripe fruit core. The oakderived
accents can also complement a wine’s minerality, especially
when that’s expressed as flint or slate.
“We aim for balance and complexity,” says Chris Mullineux of
Mullineux Family Wines. “We do not aim for overly reductive or oxidative
styles; we want some richness and texture, but there must always be
freshness. Our Chenins tend to be mostly fermented in neutral (used)
barriques, and are dry, with good texture and not excessive alcohols.” …
“I love Chenin to show its pure white fruit, pears and apples as well as
some honey character, but importantly, one should always taste and feel
the minerality,” says Ken Forrester, current chairman of the Chenin
Blanc Association (CBA) and Stellenbosch winemaker. “I do prefer the
fuller, riper style, and balance is everything.”4
One of the major differences between “old world” and “new world” styles
of Chenin is fermentation temperature. Old world style producers in the
Loire tend to ferment their Chenin at higher temperatures, 16–20°C (60–68
°F) than do new world producers in South Africa and elsewhere, who typically
ferment their whites at temperatures around 10–12°C (50–54°F). Old
world wine producers tend not to emphasize the tropical fruit flavors and
aromas that are more vivid with cooler fermentation temperatures.5
Production in B.C. is more recent but does date back to the 1960’s when
plantings were made in the Oliver area. Only a handful of wineries work
with this grape, but they are making new world versions that hold their own
on the world stage. When I moved back to the Okanagan in the late 1990s I
visited a planting of 30-year-old Chenin vines on the Golden Mile Bench.
That vineyard is still producing for Road 13 vineyards (reviewed below).
While Chenin will never be a primary grape in this area, I trust that it will
always have a place, as it ripens well in the Okanagan climate.
Chenin can be a very versatile player in food and wine pairings, but the
wide range in its wine styles needs to be taken into account. Lighter, dry
versions pair well with light dishes such as salads, fish and chicken. The
sweeter styles can balance the spicy heat of some Asian and Hispanic
cuisines. The acidity and balance of medium-dry styles goes well with
cream sauces and rich foods like pâté or sharper cheeses.
Here is a sampling from B.C., South Africa and France that moves from
lighter to fuller-bodied, followed by two reds (for those readers who eschew