Social impact of the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge
The Chenin Blanc Association has been one of the earliest advocates for this remarkable grape that is planted more widely in South Africa than anywhere else in the world. For more than a decade it has been actively championing Chenin’s potential to make exciting, delicious and uniquely South African wines. In 2014, with the generous support of Standard Bank, the association started an annual Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge. Its purpose is to identify and reward top Chenin winemaking in the country. The organisers and sponsors recognise how important farm workers are to producing these winning wines. That’s why every year a cash prize goes to every one of the top ten producers with the condition that the money is spent on projects to uplift or upskill farm workers, their families and their communities.
Since the start of the challenge, prize winners have spent their prize money on a variety of projects to upskill and uplift farm workers, their families and communities. Creches have been established, as well as after-care facilities for school children. The strong emphasis on education spans early childhood learning programmes to tertiary training. Some winners have created libraries, computer rooms and other educational resources for their workers and communities. Another major beneficiary of prize money is the Pebbles Project. This NGO runs a suite of education, health, nutrition, community and protection programmes for hundreds of children in the Cape Winelands, from infants to school leavers. Pebbles also offers social services to combat foetal alcohol spectrum disorder and alcohol abuse. Other projects undertaken have included sustainable farming, accommodation, sporting and other recreational initiatives.
Spier, in Stellenbosch, is a regular Top Ten Challenge winner. This is their story:
Community Keepers Stellenbosch
DGB Charitable Trust
Du Toitskloof Mobile Library
Durbanville Hills Trust
Fair Trade committee Spice Route farm
Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR)
Franschhoek Hospitality Academy and Learning Centre Trust
Homes with Heart Project
Klein Handjies (Early-childhood development centre) Boschendal
Kleine Zalze Fair Trade Committee
Kusasa Project in Franschhoek
SmartFunder Bursary Fund
Sustainability Institute Stellenbosch
The Napier Care Centre
Tim James Harlow Foundation
Wyzneusies Chréche Badsberg
Young Farmers Association
Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge 2020 Winners
The spread of vineyards contributing to this year’s line-up of Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge winners shows just how adaptable the grape is, in the view of Chenin Blanc Association (CBA) chairman Ken Forrester. “From Stellenbosch to Worcester, Breedekloof and the cooler-climate Durbanville, these wines really do demonstrate Chenin’s ability to successfully put down roots in a variety of growing conditions. With the mounting impact of climate change worldwide, it’s not surprising that so many growers in the Americas and Australasia are now looking to it as the grape of their future, too”.
Forrester said South Africa’s critical and commercial success with Chenin was inspiring many producers around the world. “It’s why there has been such a groundswell of interest in the International Chenin Blanc Summit to be hosted in South Africa next year. At the same time, it’s why our Chenins have become the go-to choice for so many consumers in export markets. It’s their way of showing support for our industry during these difficult times. Make no mistake, they do so, not as an act of charity but as a mark of respect for and confidence in our wines.
“You know what they say: South African Chenins are a lot like South Africans themselves – vibrant, resilient and readily responsive to changing circumstances. Both the vines and the people put down deep and tenacious roots. It’s how we overcome adversity and even flourish under stress.”
The Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top 10
Challenge 2020 winning wines.
Speaking on behalf of the judges, panel chair James Pietersen said this year’s top ten were sourced mainly from mature vines, with some as old as 48 years. “From the 136 wines we assessed we found a clear link between wine quality and older, established vines. Seven of the top ten wines were harvested from vines 35 years’ old at the very least, and in another instance the age of the vines ranged between 25 and 40 years.
“Across the spectrum of styles, we noticed an appealing freshness and vivaciousness. Part of the reason was the impact of nuanced, sophisticated oaking, with some producers this year introducing larger 1 500-litre and 2 500-litre barrels to their wood regimes. Also noteworthy was that for the second time only in the history of the challenge, now in its seventh year, one of the wines selected was entirely unwooded. It came from a 43-year-old vineyard. We see it as confirmation that oak is in no way an absolute as far as depth and complexity are concerned.”
He said there were three newcomers to the Top Ten line-up. First-timer Alvi’s Drift delivered two of the winning wines. The other producers to debut were Badsberg and Kaapzicht.
“Remarkably, Stellenrust, with two wines this year – one the unwooded expression - is the only producer to have featured on the challenge every year since its inception in 2014. DeMorgenzon and Spier have also been regular winners, while all the others on the list have also made multiple appearances.”
Pietersen said that while the composition of the judging panel was deliberately changed each year to allow for fresh perspectives, “the appearance of some of the same producers year after year speaks to a consistency of attributes sought by the judges, whomever they are. Nevertheless, the line-up also shows there is ample accommodation of new players.”
Stephan van der Merwe, head of commercial banking at Standard Bank in the Western Cape, confirmed that his organisation would be awarding a cash prize of R25 000 for each of the winning wines. According to the competition stipulations, the money goes towards producer projects intended to “reinforce economic and social benefits in the workplace".
To date, R1,35 million has been distributed, with producers thus far investing in a range of initiatives to enhance the lives of their worker communities. These have ranged from educational, to health and housing projects.
The winning wines retail from R68 a bottle to R430.
This year ’s judges were James Pietersen (panel chair), Wine Cellar’s South African portfolio manager 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); Tinashe Nyamudoka, formerly a sommelier with chef Luke Dale Roberts and now a wine marketer; and Penny Setti, sommelier at Chef’s Warehouse. Tendai Marisa, sommelier at Indochine, served as an associate judge.
Appendix 1 - snapshot of winning wines, their vintages, chemical analyses, wooding (or not) and prices - download here
Appendix 2 - summary the tasting notes for each wine - download here
2019 Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge Winners
This year’s winners of the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge provide ample evidence of South Africa’s major advances with the variety, according to Ina Smith, manager of the Chenin Blanc Association.
“The growing focus on Chenin by international tastemakers has undoubtedly raised the quality benchmark,” says the association’s chairman, Ken Forrester. “It’s fair to say that the recent international Chenin Blanc congress, held in Angers, France, demonstrated to delegates just how far South African producers have succeeded with the variety, in terms of both quality and stylistic range. We think you will find convincing expression of this in the 2019 Challenge line-up, chosen from 150 entries submitted by 87 producers.”
Forrester said a key takeout from the congress in Angers, the home of Chenin Blanc in France, was that the Chenin excellence attained by many South African winemakers in recent years had prompted the French to give more serious attention to the grape. He highlighted a recent comment by British critic, Tim Atkin MW, writing for Harpers, that: “The French may be reluctant to admit it, yet I think that South Africa’s achievements with Chenin have influenced winemakers in Anjou and Touraine, the way that Argentinian Malbec has inspired Cahors and promoted links between the two”.
“What’s important,” added Forrester, “is that increasing critical and academic attention is good for Chenin wherever it is produced.”
He pointed to new research confirming that Chenin, believed to have originated around 500 years ago, was the offspring of two French white grapes, Savagnin and Sauvignonasse.
While previously grown almost exclusively by South Africa and France, it is now cultivated in 23 countries and has become the world’s 26th most planted variety, covering somewhere between 33 000 hectares and 36 000 ha. South Africa accounts for most plantings, totalling just over 17 000 ha.
The Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top 10
Challenge 2019 winning wines.
Commenting on this year’s winners, judging chair, Cathy van Zyl MW said the majority of the top ten were sourced from vines 30 years and older, including one, made from vines planted 55 years ago. “However, there were also wines made from vines just 10 and eight years’ old, demonstrating what good winegrowing and winemaking can achieve.” Five of the top ten had been produced from Stellenbosch vines, with the others using fruit from the Cederberg, Durbanville, Paarl, Slanghoek and Wellington.
Stephan van der Merwe, who heads Standard Bank’s commercial banking arm in the Western Cape, said he was encouraged to see that the average price per bottle for the winning wines had risen to R255,80 this year, compared with the average in 2018 of R200. “South African winemakers producing to world-class standards certainly deserve fair compensation and with prices starting at R108, there is still very good value to be found on the list of winners.”
Standard Bank has awarded a cash prize of R25 000 for each of the winning wines to be spent by producers in a way that “reinforces economic and social benefits in the workplace".
The winners, in alphabetical order, were:
• Cederberg Cellars Five Generations Chenin Blanc 2017
• DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2018
• Durbanville Hills Collector's Reserve The Cape Garden Chenin Blanc 2018 (new)
• Flagstone Winery Tributary Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2018 (new)
• Ken Forrester Wines The FMC 2018 (new)
• Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2018
• Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc 2018
• Rijk's Cellar Touch of Oak Chenin Blanc 2017
• Slanghoek Wynkelder Legends Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2017
• Stellenrust The Mothership Chenin Blanc 2018
Snapshot of winning wines:
33% new French
20% new French
Collector's Reserve The Cape Garden
30% new oak, mostly French, 4% American
Tributary Bush Vine
70% new French
39, 32 years
58% new French
Older French oak
Older French oak
Touch of Oak
Older French oak
Legends Barrel Fermented
50% new French
38% concrete egg
2019 Judging Panel:
Cathy van Zyl MW (chair)
Richard Kershaw MW
James Pietersen (Wine Cellar)
Joseph Dhafana (La Colombe)
Fabien Laine (French-based former sommelier, wine judge, social media entrepreneur)
Penelope Setti (Chef’s Warehouse)
- Associate Judge
2018 Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge Winners
Pure fruit, more texture, greater structure, versatility and pushed boundaries is what Chenin Blanc is all about. True to form, that is what the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge uncovered at this third successive competition.
News of the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge winners for
2018, featuring five newcomers and five regulars, comes in the wake of
unprecedented optimism in the grape variety.
“Chenin has come of
age,” said chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association, Ken Forrester. “No
longer just a niche grape loved by of the wine fraternity, it is
acquiring a mainstream following. More and more people are believing in
it, buying it, drinking it and talking about it,” he said referring to
the record number of entries in this year’s challenge, the growth in
sales of Chenin Blanc this year, and the global reach of a recent social
He said this year’s 159 submissions represented
an increase of 17% on the 2017 challenge entry numbers, while
year-on-year, local sales and exports of Chenin Blanc varietal wines are
on the rise. Forrester also highlighted the success of the #DrinkChenin
day social media campaign to mark June 15 as International Chenin Day
that generated 4.9 million impressions.
“The versatility of
Chenin, its diversity of wine styles and its great food-friendliness,
all point towards its rising acceptance among local consumers. This is
in line with the growing international interest in the grape,
increasingly seen abroad as South Africa’s calling card.”
Africa has more Chenin Blanc under vine than any other country in the
The challenge drew 113 wooded and 46 unwooded entries, all
tasted blind by the five-member panel, with 27 wines shortlisted for the
final top ten line-up.
Cathy van Zyl MW, the chairman of the
judges, said that the winning wines were largely but not exclusively
sourced from older vineyards. “While one of the winners comes from
12-year old vines, the others come from vines that are older than 27
years. Indeed, the oldest vineyard in the line-up is 65-years’ old.”
The judging panel of this year’s Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top 10
Challenge comprised (from left to right): Tinashe Nyamudoka, James
Pietersen, Richard Kershaw MW, Cathy van Zyl MW (chair), Simon Field
(MW) and Spencer Fondaumiere (associate judge).
Fruit for the winning wines was sourced from as far afield as the
Cederberg, Stellenbosch including Bottelary and Faure, Darling, Elgin,
Durbanville, the Swartland, specifically Voor-Paardeberg, Perdeberg,
Malmesbury, Tygerberg, Slanghoek, Wellington and Bot River.
wine consultant Simon Field MW, a specialist on wines from the Loire in
France, where Chenin originates and the only foreign judge on the panel,
was impressed with the line-up of what he called very polished,
palatable and professional wines and their multiplicity of expression.
“A definitively South African Chenin style was apparent to me - riper,
more fruit-forward and floral, with qualities of nectarine and other
yellow fruit, some beeswax and honey. The whole experience gave me a
fascinating new perspective on Chenin.”
Pointing to the
availability of Chenin excellence at accessible prices, Willie du
Plessis, Standard Bank SA's executive head of business banking for the
Western Cape, noted that the average price of the top 10 wines was R200.
“These world-class wines offer outstanding value, with winners retailing
at R70, R90, R120 before rising to the highest price of R375.”
He confirmed a prize of R25 000 for each of the winning wines. The money
would need "to reinforce economic and social benefits in the workplace",
in accordance with the conditions of the challenge. "We believe the
honour of making it onto the Top Ten list should extend to the workers
as well as the brand owners.”
featured amongst the Top Ten every year since the inception of the
challenge in 2014 and DeMorgenzon, every year since 2015. Stellenrust
has been in the line-up every year since 2014, with the exception of
2016. This year marks the third time Leopard’s Leap has appeared.
SA Champions hailed in inaugral
2017 Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge Winners
The 2017 Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top 10
Challenge attracted 136 entries, up almost 10% on 2016, with all the
major wine-producing areas represented. The five-member judging panel,
tasting all submissions blind, short-listed 33 wines for consideration
before deciding on the ten eventual winners.
The CBA has been
running the annual Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge since
2014 and is working across various fronts to raise the reputation of
Chenin Blanc, South Africa's most widely planted varietal. These efforts
have played a key role in establishing the country's quality credentials
amongst international wine critics, writers and other influencers in
recent years, with Chenin Blanc now widely recognised as South Africa's
backs South Africa's most planted Grape Variety - Chenin Blanc
The Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa is proud to announce the
signing of a three year sponsorship agreement with Standard Bank in
support of a Top 10 Chenin Blanc Competition, to be known as the
Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge.
The Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa represents around 120
premium South African Chenin Blanc producers.
The reward to the top 10 winners will be financial and specifically
designed to reinforce the economic and social benefits to the workplace
and workforce. Winners will receive R25 000 each and the money must be
used to reinforce the economic and social benefits in the workplace and
to the workforce. We are proud of our association with Standard Bank
because great partnerships make great business and we really look
forward to making Chenin Blanc the iconic, quality, South African white
wine grape says Ken Forrester, Chenin Blanc Association Chairperson.
Standard Bank is always pleased to partner with key role players within
South African business sectors that contribute significantly towards our
economy. The South African Wine Industry Stats (SAWIS) shows that in
2012 we were the eighth largest wine producer in the world in terms of
litres produced. The figures also show that around 320 million litres of
wine were sold domestically, and 410 million litres were exported during
2012 says Nico Groenewald, Head of Agribusiness at Standard Bank.
In line with this, it made sense for us to join forces with the Chenin
Blanc Association in support of this initiative, says Nico Groenewald.