Dr Vino recently interviewed South African winemaker Ken Forrester, Talking Chenin Blanc with Ken Forrester of South Africa, 29 October 2010. The article caught my attention, because Forrester has made chenin blanc a specialty at his eponymous winery in Stellenborsch. I had tasted the Redgate Chenin Blanc 2010 and the Voyager Estate Chenin Blanc 2009 at the Margaret River in Sydney event last week, so I was keen to learn a little more about this aromatic and lively white wine.

In the interview Forrester explained his relationship with the grape: “It is like a cat: when you call it, it looks at you quizzically, then an hour later he’s there rubbing your leg with a look saying, ‘you called’? Same with Chenin: you put it in barrel and taste it and it doesn’t taste like much right away. But when you come back in six months, it has transformed, leaving you wondering, ‘Gee, where did that come from?’ ”

Chenin blanc is the white wine variety of the Loire Valley in France, where it is also known as Pineau de la Loire. Its high acidity gives it great versatility. Wines utilising chenin blanc range from dry to semi-sweet to rich botrytised dessert wines and sparkling whites. Well made chenin blanc is any style typically exhibits floral, honeyed aromas, tropical fruit flavours and a zesty acidity that mellows as the wine develops depth and complexity with age.

Probably the most famous French expressions of chenin blanc are the Loire’s great sweet wines. Domaine le Haut Lieu (Gaston Huet) Vouvray, for example, makes sweet wines that are almost on the same pedestal as the fabled Chateau d’Yquem. These wines are renowned for their ageability, the best lasting decades or longer.

Outside of France chenin blanc has a spotted history. In South … Read the rest