SA CHENIN BEST EVER, SAY STANDARD BANK CHENIN BLANC TOP
TEN CHALLENGE JUDGES
The quality of South African
Chenin has never been better, say the 2021 Standard Bank Chenin Blanc
Top Ten Challenge judges. Panel chair James Pietersen believes South
Africa has set the benchmark for the grape globally and because of the
healthy competitive spirit of innovation amongst local winemakers, the
country remains the pre-eminent source of the most exciting and
"Chenin may be a thriving category here
but there's no complacency. Amongst the 138 entries this year, this was
apparent in the ongoing emergence of new growing regions, the greater
application of skin contact, more natural fermentation and the use of a
wide variety of fermentation and maturation vessels from amphorae to
older and larger barrels, concrete eggs and tanks.
Stellenbosch was the source of six of the winning wines, other areas
represented were Worcester, Piekenierskloof, Swartland and Paarl."
In alphabetical order the 2021
Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge winners are:
Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc Limited
Release 2020 • DeMorgenzon Reserve
Chenin Blanc 2020 • Guardian Peak
Donkiesbaai Steen 2020 • Ken Forrester Terre
Noire Chenin Blanc 2020 • Kleine Zalze Wines
Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc 2020 • Kleine Zalze Wines
Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2020 • Le Belle Rebelle
Solitude Chenin Blanc 2020 • Lievland Vineyards
Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2020 • Simonsig Wines Avec
Chêne Wooded Chenin Blanc 2019 • Stellenrust Old
Bushvine Chenin Blanc 2020
The Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top 10
Challenge 2021 winning wines.
the already rigorous judging criteria were lifted a notch this
year by including for the first time, critically acclaimed
non-entrants as blind benchmarks. "As a panel, it is essential
that we evaluate the submissions within the wider context of
best in the field. I'm glad to say that even when matched
against these non-entrants, we saw a healthy consistency in
"This speaks to an eagerness amongst
competitors to keep on bettering their past efforts, continually
lifting standards across the category. So, while the 2021
line-up included mostly repeat winners, there were newcomers in
Guardian Peak, Le Belle Rebelle and Lievland. This has been the
pattern of the results over the past years, irrespective of
panel members or vintage."
has featured eight times in the annual line-up. DeMorgenzon has
appeared seven times, every year without interruption since
"Overall, we noticed a lighter touch
in winemaking style this year, with less overt wooding and lower
residual sugars. There were greater numbers of fresher, more
youthful, salty and savoury wines, showing persistence and
length. Those we finally chose are all wines of detail,
refinement and complexity."
one of the judges remarked on how local low latitudes make for
strong light intensity, evident in the style of our wines. "We
have a distinctive terroir of sunshine and light intensity."
co-founder of the Chenin Blanc Association that is the driving
force behind the annual Top Ten Challenge, pointed out that that
perpetual appetite for exploration amongst Chenin producers was
the reason South Africa recently approached the French
winemaking fraternity to establish a joint genetic research
project to identify naturally occurring desirable Chenin clones.
"Natural mutations have occurred over time in local vineyards,
and, also in France. The genomic study now underway is the
first-ever clone identification research for Chenin. It's hoped
that what we learn will provide valuable insights into
protecting heritage vines, building Chenin's climate resilience
and in advancing eco-sustainability amongst growers. Part of the
study will be directed towards establishing a solid, scientific
basis for promoting intra-varietal diversity within vineyards."
Speaking on behalf of
the sponsors, Stephan van der Merwe, head of commercial clients at
Standard Bank in the Western Cape, highlighted the extent to which older
vineyards predominated. "The majority of the top ten winners were
harvested from vines aged at least 30 years. The most venerable
vineyards were more than half-a century old. We know from the first
phase of a UCT Graduate School of Business study that vine age can
contribute significantly to wine quality and therefore wine price. This
is already incentivising producers to preserve this heritage. We hope
the learnings from the SA/French clonal collaboration study with
encourage this still further."
This year marks the eighth of the
competition that annually awards a cash prize to each of the producers
of the top ten Chenins selected. "This is an important feature of the
challenge," Van der Merwe added. "It acknowledges the role of farm
workers in making award-winning wines."
A condition of the
competition is that the money must be used towards enhancing the quality
of life of farm workers and/or their communities.
judges are James Pietersen (panel chair), Wine Cellar's MD and a regular
judge in this and several other leading local wine competitions;
winemaker Boela Gerber Cape Wine Master of Groot Constantia; sommelier
Higgo Jacobs, who is also a senior judge at the International Wine
Challenge (IWC) and Decanter World Wine Awards and a past chairman of
the South African Sommelier Association (SASA); Penny Setti, former
sommelier at Chef's Warehouse and now owner of Penny Noire wine bar; and
newcomer to the panel, Malu Lambert, an award-winning wine writer and
contributor to Platter's South African Wine Guide and a selection of
titles, including jancisrobinson.com, Decanter and The Buyer. This
year's associate judge is Amos Sobashe, who is currently hosting the
tasting room and online tastings for Oldenburg Vineyards. He was
previously sommelier at Quoin Rock.
STANDARD BANK CHENIN BLANC TOP 10 CHALLENGE 2021 AT A GLANCE
The Bernard Series
Old Vine Chenin Blanc Limited Release
32% new, 30%
2nd fill French, 30% Foudre and 8% terracotta amphora
French oak, 20% new. Barrel matured for 10 months
50% in new and
second fill French plus concrete egg and clay amphora
20 & 38
Terre Noire Chenin
400l French oak
barrels, 30% new, rest 2nd and older
35 & 37
Kleine Zalze Wines
No new oak only
older French barrels plus for the first time a portion
Kleine Zalze Wines
400l 2nd, 3rd, and
4th French Oak and 1 x 500l amphora
Le Belle Rebelle
Solitude Chenin Blanc
100% 2nd fill French Oak
Old Vine Chenin
50% Neutral oak
45 & 38
Avec Chêne Wooded
11 months in 2nd
fill French 225l and 400l barrels
Old Bushvine Chenin
7 month in old
French 225 barrels, 4th to 5th fill
NOTES: 2021 STANDARD BANK CHENIN BLANC TOP TEN CHALLENGE
Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc
Limited Release 2020 Shy at first, with elegant oak
notes, tropical fruit and citrusy spritz freshness. Concentrated
and ripe on the palate, with a juicy, powerful and chalky
Reserve Chenin Blanc 2020 The seventh consecutive
vintage of this powerhouse wine to feature on the Top Ten list.
Perfumed oak spice with, hay, peach and quince fruit, opening
onto a juicy palate, with good acidity, well-integrated oak and
purity of flavour. Persistent and powerful.
Peak Donkiesbaai Steen 2020 (first-time winner)
Fresh perfumed, lemon/lime aroma, with bright fruit and the
added complexity of dried apple and pineapple concentration.
Firm, textured palate with good acidity and integrated, linear
Forrester Terre Noire Chenin Blanc 2020 Fresh,
fragrant nose with notes of fynbos, melon, white stone fruit.
Deep-fruited on the palate, yet understated and delicate with
good oaking. Balanced and finely crafted.
Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc 2020 Shy with
lovely spice, lemony pith, and notes of elderflower. Attractive
reduction leads to tight, nervy and nicely saline entry with
lean, powerful acidity. Loads of energy.
Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2020 An immediate
impression of composure with poised tropical notes and beeswax,
leading to a layered and concentrated palate. Focused and linear
with lots of detail – good oak, acidity and savoury interest
with a long, refined finish.
Rebelle Solitude Chenin Blanc 2020 (first-time winner)
Some elderflower notes, shy floral perfume, delicate
herbal/fynbos and spice on the nose leading to a delicate,
earthy and savoury palate, nougat complexity and zippy, pointed,
lemon-like acidity. Something different.
Vine Chenin Blanc 2020 (first-time winner) Ripe
tropical, green pear and blood orange notes with toasty oak
complexity, broad and open nose and a mouth-watering acidity and
balancing bright mango to end with a ripe lemon send-off.
Simonsig Avec Chêne
Wooded Chenin Blanc 2019 Nectarine, citrus, and light fynbos
character, supported by subtle oak. Taut and coiled with
youthful, flinty energy leading to a saline- and fynbos-laced
dry palate that is wonderfully understated. Precise.
Stellenrust Old Bushvine Chenin Blanc 2020
reduction followed by honeyed melon, a hint of apricot, ripe
tropical fruit and ginger spice lead to good oak presence,
balanced by a piercing acidity. Rich, waxy and full ripe in
style with fine acidity for palate definition. Serious and