We don’t see many good South African wines in this country these days. Has the bottom fallen out of the market or am I looking in the wrong place? I know that many visitors to South Africa import their own wine directly. However, Dr. Eilis Cryan of Kinnegar Wines keeps the flag flying with a list that includes some of the best names in the Cape. She was kind enough to drop around a few samples from producers she represents for a Chenin Blanc tasting. As these include Ken Forrester (Mr. Chenin in SA) de Trafford and Mullineux, three of the most highly regarded ‘new’ producers, I was really looking forward to the tasting. I had tasted a range of less expensive South African Chenins a few months back. Most were disappointing, possibly because they were from older vintages and tiring a little.
However, these were in a very different class, completely unlike Loire Chenin, and all sharing a textured richness bordering on opulence in some cases, some were blended with other varieties, others fermented in new oak. I preferred the fresher crisper versions, although I can see how the bigger wines would go well with certain foods and tried them out with barbequed chicken – they worked well but even then I still preferred the lighter versions. My two favourites were produced by Mullineux. The Kloof Street Chenin Blanc had plump tropical fruits, peaches and good acidity, possibly with a few grams of residual sugar. But overall a lovely combination of acidity and rich fruit. The other white was a really interesting wine, a blend of 65% Chenin Blanc, 26% Clairette Blanc and 9% Viognier. It was mouth-filling and rounded but with lovely clean acidity and a touch of peach kernels from the Viognier. Nice wine. Both are available from Kinnegar Wines (www.kinnegar.com) at €16 and €22 a bottle respectively. As well as these, I have a half-bottle of Mullineux Straw Wine that I can’t wait to try. Keep you posted.