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The story of Chenin Blanc is one of the underdog. Leaving its homeland of the Loire in France, where it had been grown since the mid-800s, it arrived in the 1650s as one of the first grapes to be planted in the Cape. Known for over three centuries as Steen, scientists only discovered relatively recently that it was in fact Chenin Blanc. As testament to this, one of the earliest surviving Chenin Blanc vines planted in 1771 can be found still producing fruit in central Cape Town.

An easy grape to grow by nature, Chenin Blanc soon became suitable for producing high volumes in almost any conditions. It quickly became the backbone of the South African wine industry, used mostly for blends and brandy production, so that by the 1950s Chenin Blanc was by far the most planted grape in the Cape. The downside was that Chenin Blanc drifted into obscurity, treated a bulk table wine.

However, since the dawn of the millennium, South African Chenin has undergone a quality revolution and emerged triumphant amongst white varieties. Today, South Africa is recognised as making some of the highest quality Chenin Blancs in the world, even matching its French counterparts in Savennières and Vouvray. Spurred on by new generations of wine drinkers and winemakers, as well as the discovery of spectacular vineyard sites, South African Chenin Blanc has cemented its place in the world of fine wine, with the country’s very best Chenin Blancs come from low yielding old vineyards, producing concentrated, complex, and age-worthy wines.

 Chenin Blanc can be made in a range of different styles with a scale starting with “fresh” at one end and rich at the other, with fruity styles positioned in between. Fresh South African Chenin Blancs show notes of green apple and lime, while more complex fruity examples exhibit flavours of tropical and stone fruits, and richer Chenins give way to baked pineapple and marmalade notes with creamy undertones.

We invite you to try some of South Africa’s most exciting Chenins with us at Belthazar. Showcasing Chenin Blanc in every style, we have the finest examples for you to enjoy.

 

Belthazar Wine Editor

Author Belthazar Wine Editor

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