Sunday, October 6, 2013

South Africa Rising - A.A. Badenhorst Chenin Blanc "Secateurs" 2012

South Africa is not the first country you think of when you're thinking about wine. Apartheid officially fell in 1994 and South African goods finally reentered the marketplace. The Wine Spectator published a major feature on South Africa recently and I found it fascinating. I've read a lot of wine publications on Italy, France, Spain and the US but I had never read a thing about South Africa. According to the Spectator article, once Apartheid fell, wine production jumped into high gear and by 1997 there were 260,000 acres under vine. In addition, since wine has been produced there since the Dutch colonists arrived in the 17th century, there are still some very old vine vineyards. Old vines means less fruit which in turn means more flavorful juice, both in concentration and soil driven elements.

A view of some of A.A. Badenhorsts's old vine Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc, South Africa's most widely planted white grape, is not a grape that is on the radar of most Americans. Vouvray, from the Loire Valley is the best Chenin Blanc in the world - and the most famous. But other than that vaunted region, there are very few that can claim much success with Chenin Blanc. South Africa may change that yet. The A.A. Badenhorst Winery resides to the west of Capetown in Swartland, the fourth largest South African wine region. It's a hot, arid region with soils that contain lots of stone, both shale and granite. This climate is beneficial to Chenin Blanc, an acidic, late ripening varietal that needs hang time but which is also very sensitive to it's terroir.

The $12.99 Secateurs Chenin Blanc is hands down the most incredible entry level example of this grape I have ever had. Beautiful aromas of ripe pear, roasted nuts, honey and stony notes are front and center. There's excellent concentration and a velvety mouth feel with pear and peach flavors accented with citrus notes. There's also plenty of acidity to balance the sweet fruit. This beautiful wine finishes long and dry and I am very much looking forward to getting back to the store to pick up a few more bottles. Imported by Broadbent Selections - Don't miss it!

Update - I received a very nice email from Helena Sheridan of the A.A. Badenhorst Winery. Some of their Chenin Blanc vines date to the 1960's. As you can see in the picture above, they are what you call bush trained with cover crops in between the rows. These are unirrigated vineyards. The fruit for this bottling was hand picked over 12 days with juice being added to the fermentation tanks each day. This extended the fermentation by about 20 days, which is quite a long time. In addition, a small percentage is fermented in old French oak barrels and left on the lees (dead yeast cells) for 7 months prior to bottling.