Chenin Blanc producers of South Africa, it’s time to put your wine to the test! Entries are now open for the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge.
They can submit any style they choose, provided the residual sugar of their entries does not exceed 12 grams per litre. The super food-friendly grape is capable of a great diversity of expression from light to weighty, from bone-dry to off-dry, from wooded to unwooded.
Underscoring its versatility, a recent Stellenbosch University research project identified no fewer than 266 aromatic descriptors for Chenin.
“We’re celebrating Chenin’s range. That’s part of its appeal and we invite winemakers to submit the wines that make them proudest, irrespective of style, so long as the residual sugar limit is not breached.” explains Ina Smith, manager of the Chenin Blanc Association.
She and her colleagues have lined up an impressive panel of judges, three of whom are Masters of Wine (MW). They will taste all submissions blind with each judge starting at a different point in the flight to combat palate fatigue. “Collectively, the group brings to the task a wealth of expertise in winemaking, wine trading and wine service,” she says.
The panel is chaired once again by seasoned wine judge Cathy van Zyl, who is also associate editor of Platter’s South African Wine Guide. Simon Field (MW), long-time former buyer for UK fine wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd where his focus included the Loire, the birthplace of Chenin, is flying into the Winelands for the challenge. These days he works as a wine consultant and has retained the Loire as a niche area of interest. The third MW is celebrated winemaker Richard Kershaw, renowned for his cool-climate Elgin wines.
They are being joined by James Pietersen, Wine Cellar’s South African portfolio manager and a regular judge in leading local wine shows. Completing the panel are Tinashe Nyamudoka, head sommelier and beverage manager for the Test Kitchen, South Africa’s only restaurant to consistently feature on the San Pellegrino Top 100 Best Restaurant list, and associate judge Spencer Fondaumiere, who is manager and sommelier of Burrata, one of the restaurants owned by Neil Grant, a founder and former chairman of the South African Sommelier Association.
This year marks the fifth of the challenge that annually awards a cash prize to the producers of the top 10 Chenins selected. The stipulation is that the money – R25 000 per winning wine – goes towards a socially sustainable initiative involving wine-farm workers. To date a total of R850 000 has been spent on social upliftment programmes.
“The purpose of the challenge is twofold,” confirms Willie du Plessis, who is the Western Cape executive head of business banking for Standard Bank SA, the event’s headline sponsor.
“Firstly, it acknowledges and highlights the excellence of South Africa’s top-quality Chenins. As importantly, it is to reward the integral role of wine-farm workers in contributing to South Africa’s profile as a world-class producer of this extraordinary varietal.”
Entries should be delivered to Villiera Wines, Stellenbosch, between 25-28 June 2018. Wine entries will be tasted from 3-5 July, and the winners will be announced in August. For more information, visit chenin.co.za or email Ina Smith on email@example.com.