Wine: South Africa's Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc was brought by Dutch settlers to South Africa in the 1680s. Originally, the Dutch distilled Chenin's wine to produce brandy, itself a word derived from old Dutch, brandewijn meaning "burnt wine".
Today, South Africa's Chenin Blanc (historically referred to as Steen), produces two main celebrated styles of dry wines. Either fresh, crisp and fruity for immediate drinking or richer and more tropical fruity styles from late-harvested grapes. The riper fruit benefits from being fermented in new oak barrels to add nutty richness and white pepper spice. These oaked wines will continue to improve over several years. As a foodie wine, Chenin is remarkably versatile. It has naturally high acidity which can refresh parts of the palate no toothbrush can reach as it cuts through any creamy, saucy or oily dishes.
Here are those that topped our taste test:
1) Chenin Blanc/ Steen 2015, Drostdy Hof, Western Cape 12.5pc
Lime zesty fragrance. Excellent concentration of pithy citrus and starfruit flavours with a bracing tangy grapefruit finish. Enjoy with deep-fried calamari rings and capers.
€13 at Gerry's Supermarket, Skerries; Rowan's, Rathfarnham; Cases Warehouse, Galway, Joyce's Supermarkets, Headford, Knocknacranna, Athenry, Tuam and Inverin, and wineonline.ie
2) Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2014, Kleine Zalze, Stellenbosch 14.5pc
Honey and nutty bouquet from the super ripe fruit and oak. Rich and full-bodied with the oaked spice contrasted by a lemon and pithy finish. Try with salmon fillets grilled with a sweet and sour glaze.
€12.89 at winesoftheworld.ie
3) Chenin Blanc 2013, Delheim, Stellenbosch 13.5pc
Delicately scented with yellow plum aromas. Mineral salty highlights on the palate over lemony zest and flesh. Perfect with oysters.
€12.95 at O'Brien's nationwide.
4) Chenin Blanc 2015, Secateurs, Badenhorst Family Wines, Swartland 13pc
Lovely lemon peel palate with a salty tang. Beautifully balanced acidity with a mineral and pithy finish. Works well with onion bhajis.
€16.95 at jnwine.com and in Dublin: Whelehan's, Blackrock Cellars, Terroirs and Corkscrew.
5) Chenin Blanc 2013, Fleur du Cap, Stellenbosch 13.5pc
Butterscotch and smoky scents from fermented on new oak barrels. Spicy, peppery and peach fruit with a hint of caramel. Pair with prawns in a satay sauce.
€18 at Egan's, Portlaoise and wineonline.ie
6) Darling Chenin Blanc 2015, Fairview, Paarl 13.5pc
Intense grassy and zesty palate with a tingling lemony finish. A perfect companion with lemon sole, plainly grilled and drizzled with melted butter.
€18.99 at Clontarf Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Thomas's, Foxrock; La Touche Wines, Greystones and wineonline.ie
James Nicholson's Spring Wine Tour comes to Cork's Opera House on Monday, May 9, and The G Hotel in Galway on Tuesday, May 10, from 6pm to 8pm. Meet winemakers and taste their wines. Pre-booking essential, tickets €15, from jnwine.com or by calling 1890 667799.