Header image courtesy of Springbok Wines
A cousin of Sauvignon blanc and a fellow native of the French Loire Valley, Chenin blanc is an underrated variety of white wine that you should consider making your new summertime staple. Although it may have initially been sourced from the region of Vouvray, the variety produced in South Africa has gained much popularity and reverence internationally.
Springbok Wines, who exclusively import and sell South African wines in Hong Kong, have lent us some insight into their award-winning home-grown gems. Here’s how to make the most out of a glass of this liquid gold.
Boasting a history that dates all the way back to the seventeenth century, the deep-rooted heritage behind South African wines shows how the terroir has formed an intertwining connection with its gorgeous landscapes and beautiful historical estates. Choosing to highlight small-batch producers, independent winemakers, and family-run wineries, Springbok Wines hope to exhibit the diversity of the scene in their curations, merging brands that draw upon tried-and-true traditions with selections that take advantage of novel influences.
Move over Sauvignon Blanc, as it’s time for Chenin Blanc to shine! The spotlight is firmly set on the regions of Stellenbosch and Swartland located near the city of Cape Town, where rolling hills and bowls play host to luscious old bush vines twining bushels upon bushels of plump emerald grapes.
The Swerwer Chenin blanc ($175) is a Swartland variety that draws from vines averaging 40 years old, bringing out its prominent peach flavours through subtle oak ageing, tinged with dabs of citrus and pear. The mild elegance of this model showcases the effects of the granite terrain and hotter Mediterranean weather of the area.
The blossoming of Chenin blanc, also referred to locally as “steen,” has led it to become the choice of grape varietal in the whole nation. Making for nearly a quarter of the entire South African wine production industry, the country turned out five million litres in 2020 alone, speaking volumes (see what we did there?) of their heavyweight dominance in the world market—easily surpassing fellow Chenin makers in France, the United States, and Argentina combined!
When it comes to Chenin blanc, there are plenty of options that utilise its beautiful palate. From sparkling wines to still dry wines, or even sweetened dessert wines, its dynamic versatility allows for a broad product line.
A notable quality specific to South African Chenin blanc is that every single grape carries well-imprinted flavours that even novice wine drinkers can grasp and enjoy. They are highly receptive to the terroir unique to the place it’s grown and harvested, making for a whole spectrum of aromas based on ripeness level. For example, colder climates tend to yield grapes that are less ripe, making for fresh notes that are reminiscent of honey and yellow apples. Warmer conditions will ripen the crop a bit more, resulting in currents akin to pear, peach, or pineapple.
If you are looking to secure some premium Chenin blanc, there are a few factors to keep a keen eye out for. The distillations on the higher end are made from old bush vines, which are made in smaller quantities, yet carry more pronounced flavours. Typically undergoing a light oak ageing process, the acidity is rendered more subtle.
Referencing the tenacity of the sturdy vines the wine is made from, the Pella “Kanniedood” Chenin blanc ($160) incorporates the Afrikaans phrase for “can’t die” or “die hard.” Aged for an entire year in Stellenbosch using Franco-Hungarian oak, it bursts with the tastes of apple blossom and peach, with buttered popcorn and lemon curd.
As the well-known pairing goes, white wines are reserved for white meats and fish, so salmon, turkey, and chicken make for the perfect accompaniments. Generally speaking, the wine’s profile also makes it the right match for Southeast Asian cuisine—Vietnamese food in particular. Balance out your sweet and sour pork with a glassful of Chenin blanc. For dinner parties, opt for a platter that is loaded with brie, Gruyère, goat cheeses, and cheddar.
There is no one single way to enjoy a glass of this blond goodness, so Springbok Wines simply advises opting for what suits your preferences best. With a library of wines like no other in Hong Kong, its collection includes an extensive array of bottles to serve with your next meal or to enjoy by itself over good conversation.
Whether you need advice on choosing from red, white, sparkling, or rosé, Springbok Wines has something in store to suit your favourite flavours. You may even learn to nurture your own palate by indulging in their many tastings and events. A strong passion shines through in their curations, allowing you to enjoy a true taste of South African wine.