With some justified claim to becoming one of the Cape’s greatest white grape
varieties, the plucky, old and gnarly bush vines which produce Chenin Blanc do
so well because of their ability to thrive in this region’s arid, unirrigated, crushed
granite soils. Compelled by the dryland conditions, the root stock burrows deeply,
seeking moisture and mineral-rich nutrients. As is often the case with grapevine,
the stresses, counter-intuitively, promote development of characterful fruit with
more-nuanced layers of flavour in the finished wines. That’s certainly the case in
this week’s DéClassé recommended bottling of a historically overlooked though
now resurgent white, varietal style from this continent’s southernmost tip: the
aptly and evocatively named Vinum Africa.
Comprising 20% of South Africa’s total cultivation and output, the winelands of
the Stellenbosch region in the western cape continue to rise in the competitive
ranks of reputation, both locally and internationally. Blessed with a diversity of
micro-climates and soil composition, its potential was first recognized by French
Huguenots who arrived in the 1690’s and immediately began planting vines. The
somewhat younger, ocean-facing vineyards of the Winery of Good Hope line the
slopes of Helderberg (bright mountain) and are a dynamic farming enterprise at
the forefront of creatively exploiting this emerging, wine making terroir.
Hands-on harvesting, manual sorting and selection lead a careful production
process where fermentation of most of the grapes takes place in the coolness
of stainless steel tanks. While it’s left to linger in the expired yeast (on its lees),
infusing the batch with some subtle, toasty hints, the other 30% is transferred
into Burgundian Oak barrels where it takes on its spiced accents. Final blending
of both components is the recipe key which allows for a balance of freshly acidic,
still-crisp fruit endowed with considerable aromatic depth.
The striking symbol acting as label, combines an ethnic flourish with the latin
term Vinum (wine) and was conceived as an expression of the positive political,
historical and social progression in a revitalizing South Africa. Proudly playing
out their part, the passion and care of these vintners is palatable in the glass.
This is truly a lovely, layered wine, offered at a very reasonable price-point.
VINUM AFRICA CHENIN BLANC 2012
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #739995 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD
Made in: Stellenbosch, South Africa
By: The Winery of Good Hope
Release Date: May 16, 2015
Medium-bodied, fragrant and dry, try serving this zesty wine with Mediterranean
dishes, grilled vegetables of all sorts, sushi or as complement to Asian cuisine. It’s
also satisfying as an apéritif with goat cheese canapés.