WHAT: Chenin Blanc is one of the least understood and least appreciated grapes in the world. And that’s a shame because it makes a great wine.
Some people confuse it with Sauvignon Blanc, but the two grapes are very different. Both can make great wine, but the Chenin Blanc often is more complex and has better aging potential. Chenin is versatile, and you will find it in everything from sparkling wines to world-class dessert wines.
The Mulderbosch is a great expression of Chenin Blanc, full of opulent fruit and crisp acidity. It starts with aromas of lime and pear with touches of honeysuckle. There is a beautiful mix of creaminess and tart grapefruit on the palate. It finishes with a spicy note.
After crushing and a light pressing, the wine was fermented with a select yeast culture. Eighty percent of the wine was tank fermented at cold temperatures while the remaining 20 percent was naturally fermented in barrels and spent five months in new Hungarian and French oak barrels. The wine then was filtered and bottled.
This is a versatile wine, great for outdoor picnics or fine dining. It’s great as an aperitif and elegant when paired with seafood and fowl.
Chenin Blanc is South Africa’s signature historic grape variety, but it is better known for the wines of France’s Loire Valley. Some of the finest white wines in the world are produced there, most notably Vouvray.
In the 1960s, California Chenin Blanc dominated white wine sales until it was supplanted by Sauvignon Blanc and then Chardonnay. Chenin acreage decreased in California, but the wine’s popularity is on the rise again.
Though it is grown around the world, Chenin Blanc is still most identified with France and South Africa.
WINERY: Founded in 1989, Mulderbosch Vineyards is one of South Africa’s premier wineries. It gained attention early on for Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé wines. It was one of several wineries whose high-quality wines put South Africa on the wine drinker’s map.
The winery, in the Stellenbosch Hills outside of Stellenbosch, is known for consistently producing award-winning wines at moderate prices.
Global demand for its wines brought quick growth and in 2010 sale of the winery to noted wine investor Charles Banks. Banks gained fame as managing partner of Jonata and cult favorite Screaming Eagle Winery and later founded Terroir Capital, which has bought wineries around the world, including the historic Mayacamas Vineyards.
Banks hired winemaker Adam Mason and the two have focused on taking the Stellenbosch to an even higher level.
They continued to emphasize Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé and started bringing more attention to the Chenin Blanc.
Stellenbosch has its own estate-grown bush vines dating back to the 1970s and has strong relationships with growers who share an interest in sustainable farming.
GOES WITH: We had this wine on a picnic with friends along the Blue Ridge Parkway on a beautiful fall afternoon. We had a variety of picnic food, from fried chicken and cold cuts to fruit and chips. I thought this was a superb wine with all the food, but especially with the chicken.
It should be a great seafood wine, with dishes like crab cakes, steamed mussels and grilled fish, or with vegetable stews or herb-roasted chicken.