I really thought hell would freeze over before a bunch of rural Breedekloof winemakers would be eating raw fish at an Italian joint in Cape Town while talking about their Chenin Blanc wines. And while hell is still blazing, apparently, it was cold enough to freeze the scrotum on a brass monkey when the Breedekloof Makers – aforementioned group of Chenin Crusaders – hit town to offer their current wares. Raw slices of red roman – Italian style at Riva Restaurant – optional.
There are now 13 wineries involved in the Breedekloof Makers, an initiative started back in 2014 by Attie Louw from Opstal and Bergsig’s De Wet Lategan to showcase Chenin Blancs crafted with more personal attention and creative flair than those wines ending-up in bulk tanks. All wines are wooded and corralled into a premium priced segment, the general observation being that the “Makers” of the Chenins have a ball doing so. And in the process, the wines are individual showing a finger-print not so much of site and terroir as of a personal stylistic approach.
The platform for presenting the latest 13 Maker offerings was said restaurant where the winemakers made personal visits to each table to speed-talk the guests through their wines. A thankless task if ever – imagine trying to tell the same story with the same amount of enthusiasm 13 times over.
But pull it off they did. All the winemakers were prepared, engaging and proud of their wines as well as the mission to get recognition for the potential of Chenin Blanc from the Breedekloof Region where the variety is grown in abundance and with vigour.
As stated, I was really impressed by the fact that each wine had a voice of its own. There were Chenins stabbing with a steely, almost Chablis-like rapier. Others were as robust, muscular and showy as the calf muscles on a Rawsonville farmer buying diesel at the AgriMark. Others, again, had a yummy sweet-fruit core with trés exotic and sophisticated perfume and complexity on the finish lasting longer than a sigh from an Iranian widow who’s just started dating again.
Having the right to be ruthless and clinically subjective, I picked five Breedekloof Maker Chenins to wash down my raw red roman before it turned to chum (in no specific order)
:•Lateganskop The Zahir 2017: Arum lily and blooming waterblom on the nose. Lean and full of minerals with a whack of green plums and a gripping citrus rush on the mid-palate. A clean and bright finish, bordering on crispness, the kind Chenin is known for.
• Merwida Family Vintners Chenin Blanc 2017: Balanced in fruit nectar, comfort on the palate and energetic, vibey acidity. Nine months in older wood is evident with some creamy, lemon meringue talk coming through due to lees contact and batonage. A brilliant food wine, sweetness just reined in enough thanks to a firm autolytic bite.
• Daschbosch Steen 2017: Another example of great lees work during the 14 months in older wood, six on the thick lees. Dense, plush and vividly displaying classy white wine features with pear, litchi and grilled nuts coming to the fore. Brilliantly styled texture, showy and deservedly so.
• Olifantsberg Lark Chenin Blanc 2017: Yes, we lark it a lot, ek sê. Stands out from the Chenin crowd like a Theresa May dance move at a Gugulethu Wine Society. Extraordinary perfume of crushed green apples and wild river grass. Butter-cups, too. On the palate, an herbaceous and fynbos breeze offset by bread-fruit, custard apple and loquat kernel. Fresh and sunny, but truly memorable due to the vigour of its presence.
• Opstal Carl Everson Chenin Blanc 2017: Ticking all the right boxes one would want when going for a complete white wine. Assertive palate presence and silky, polished mouth-feel. Loads of fruit, nip of spice and nuanced layers of deliciousness ranging from honey-blossom to savoury. Soft, fragile presence – tender is the white.