Archive for the ‘Chenin Blanc’ Category

Jeff Grier (CWG Chairman) and Andrea Mullineux.

 

At the end of last summer, loads of wine people suddenly all went nuts about a particular South African wine. Neal Martin, from The Wine Advocate, gave it 96 points. Joe Wadsack, an influential tasting god, raved about it to anyone who would listen and quite a few who didn’t. Julia Harding MW, of Jancisrobinson.com wrote it up in glowing terms, “Each mouthful lasts for ever.” Everywhere you looked it was, “Yeah, I tried Cartology ’11 before you’d even heard of it.”

There were only ever 5,000 bottles of this glorious £25 white – the 2011 was a blend of 92% chenin blanc from four different parcels of bush vines, with the balance made up of semillon from a vineyard in Franschhoek – and it sold out super-swiftly. Now the build-up for the next vintage, the 2012 (a few precious bottles are expected here in August – ask at Handford Wines, The Wine Society and Lay & Wheeler), has already started. “The 2011 was brilliant but the 2012 is better,” tweeted Jamie Goode (thewineanorak.com), who tasted it on a recent visit to the Cape.

Why am I telling you about a wine you may never be able to so much as sip? First of all because it’s almost unheard-of for a wine to come from nowhere and grab such attention. Second, and far more importantly, because Cartology catches the zeitgeist.

This isn’t just about one wine or even one winery, this bottle is representative of an entirely new and exciting wave of South African wines and winemakers.

 

Read on …

Music and wine.

Music and wine.

 

 

Stroll through the vineyards at Il Paradiso di Frassina in Montalcino and the sound of Mozart soothes your ears. If you like Beethoven, Bach or Boulez, not to mention Miles Davis, Madonna or Motörhead, you will be disappointed. Musical variety is not the point here. The Sangiovese vines are given a permanent aural diet of Mozart, pumped through 58 strategically sited speakers, and nothing else.

Sound waves have an effect on the way plants, not just vines grow, according to winemaker Federico Ricci. “Low frequencies seem to have the biggest impact, and that means certain types of classical music. We are still experimenting, but Mozart seems to work best.” Even the most ardent lover of Mozart could tire of the great composer’s oeuvre, but not vines, apparently.

If you think this sounds a bit loopy – like Prince Charles talking to his hedgerows – Ricci points out that the Mozart vineyards are stronger are more resistant to disease than those where there is no music playing. Il Paradiso di Frassina picks the former as much as two weeks before the latter. “It gives us more flexibility,” he says, “and means that we can harvest our grapes when they are perfect.”

 

Read on …

SwartlandRev_Poster2012FA

 

 

A bunch of South African wine rebels are becoming increasingly law-abiding.
By Rebecca Gibb | Posted Monday, 31-Dec-2012
On a hot spring day in the isolated village of Riebeek Kasteel, a group of bearded men sport Che Guevara-inspired T-shirts and workers’ caps declaring that they are part of “The Swartland Revolution.”

But it’s about time they ditched the “R” in “Revolution,” as the surrounding wine-growing region now appears to be in a happy phase of evolution.

The revolution took place “around 10 years ago when Charles [Back] started Spice Route,” explains Chris Mullineux of Mullineux Wines. “There were around 10 wineries then; today there are 32.”

In the past decade, the region has made its mark, moving from the mass-produced, high-alcohol wines traditionally made in Swartland to carefully crafted, more elegant examples. In terms of exposure, it helped that the people behind the wines were pretty kooky and the wines were not half bad.

While visitors to the region were spreading the word about this unconventional corner of South Africa, the local growers were making gradual changes. Since 2010, a new status quo has been established through rules and regulations.

The local producers formed the Swartland Independent Producers’ Association and introduced a code of practice for all members. It declared that acidification of wines was a no-no, despite relatively low acidities in this region making this a questionable idea.

“The secret of the Swartland is that this is a warm climate so the acidity is low, but the pH is healthy because of the old vines,” explains Mullineux. “If you were a fanatical winemaker, you would probably be tempted to acidify.”

In addition, their charter also states that there must be no yeast additions, so the ferments are all spontaneous; and there must be no chemical supplements to the fermentation, such as pectolytic enzymes, powdered tannins or water additions. Chemical fining is forbidden. Sulfur, which is a common antioxidant and antimicrobial, is allowed, but producers “are encouraged to make moderate additions” only.

The group has a lot of rules, considering that most of its members are non-conformists. Thankfully, for those of us who don’t subscribe to the bigger-is-better school of wine, most of the rules are a welcome relief when so many New World wines taste more like burnt toast, because of overly enthusiastic oak treatment obliterating the fruit. In Swartland, the wines must not be fermented or matured in more than… read on

 

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uve

In order to appreciate wine, it’s essential to understand the characteristics different grapes offer and how those characteristics should be expressed in wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel are all red grapes, but as wines their personalities are quite different. Even when grown in different appellations and vinified using different techniques, a varietal wine always displays certain qualities, which are inherent in the grape’s personality. Muscat should always be spicy, Sauvignon Blanc a touch herbal. Zinfandel is zesty, with pepper and wild berry flavors. Cabernet Sauvignon is marked by plum, currant and black cherry flavors and firm tannins. Understanding what a grape should be as a wine is fundamental, and knowing what a grape can achieve at its greatest is the essence of fine-wine appreciation.

In Europe, the finest wines are known primarily by geographic appellation (although this is changing; witness the occasional French and Italian varietals). Elsewhere, however—as in America, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand—most wines are labeled by their varietal names; even, sometimes, by grape combinations (Cabernet-Shiraz, for example). To a large extent, this is because in the United States, the process of sorting out which grapes grow best in which appellations is ongoing and Americans were first introduced to fine wine by varietal name. In Europe, with a longer history for matching grape types to soil and climate, the research is more conclusive: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, for instance, are the major grapes of Burgundy. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot are the red grapes of Bordeaux. Syrah dominates northern Rhône reds. Barolo and Barbaresco are both made of Nebbiolo, but the different appellations produce different styles of wine. In Tuscany, Sangiovese provides the backbone of Chianti. A different clone of Sangiovese is used for Brunello di Montalcino.

As a result, Europeans are used to wines with regional names.

In time, the New World’s appellation system may well evolve into one more like Europe’s. Already California appellations such as Carneros and Santa Maria Valley are becoming synonymous with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is known for Pinot Noir and Australia’s Hunter Valley for Shiraz; back in California, Rutherford, Oakville and the Stags Leap District are all associated with Cabernet-based red table wines. Wineries with vested financial interests in these appellations and the marketing clout to emphasize the distinctive features of the wines grown in these areas will determine how the appellation system evolves and whether specific wine styles emerge. The appellations themselves will also determine which grapes excel and deserve special recognition.

Following are descriptions of the most commonly used Vitis vinifera grapes. 

Chenin Blanc wines are probably quite familiar to most wine consumers.

Since the 11th Century, France’s Loire Valley has always produced lovely Chenin Blancs, such those from Savennieres and Vouvray. The French wines have varied from dry to sweet, and both seem to last decades or more. On the other hand, this is usually not the case for Chenin Blancs from the New World.

Read on …

Ken Forrester on Chenin Blanc in South Africa.

Ken Forrester on Chenin Blanc in South Africa.

Join us as we talk with Ken Forrester, of Ken Forrester Wines in South Africa. He’s an excellent spokesperson for the grape, its history, and for the beautiful wines that can be made from it.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW