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The Continued Delights of Chenin Blanc

It was in a previous post (Something for the Weekend 5, October 3rd) that I spoke of the under-appreciated joys of Chenin Blanc. That was in relation to the Loire, Chenin’s place of birth but it also has a second home (doesn’t everyone?) in South Africa. Here it has a mixed reputation with some producers all too happy to pull it out and convert to ‘easier’ sells such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon (boring) Blanc. Yet in more recent times, some seem set on securing Chenin’s status as South Africa’s signature white variety, a very sensible move in a world already soaked with the aforementioned varieties. Producers to look out for include Alheit, Beaumont, Ken Forrester, Raat’s, the Sadie Family and Mullineux to name but a few. Fortunately I was in town this week to taste Bellingham’s best as they enter the fray here in Taipei. Their wines, particularly the Old Vine Chenin reviewed below had the requisite ‘drive’ to be admired and when coupled with the aromas of custard apple…well that’s a winning formula as far as I’m concerned.

If your idea of fun is to dress your beloved in a gimp mask and ask them to eat a banana whilst you restore their toes to their pre-painted state, then Pinotage is the grape for you. No variety is so negatively associated with the smells of rubber, banana and acetone as South Africa’s indigenous gift to the world. Yet good Pinotage does exist and although, as of yet, it is still not quite on my list of go to grapes, examples as engaging as Bellingham’s below are more than worthy of your attention and promise a much less malodorous future.

Bellingham, Ancient Earth, Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region, 2013, 13.5%
Chenin Blanc
Wine-making: A little oak just to add some custard/ vanilla aroma
Note: Fresh and full with Chenin’s typically appley character dominating. A little creamy on the palate but it has the requisite acidity to prevent any blowsiness. Good value Chenin!
Price: 700NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Finesse

Bellingham, Bernard Series, Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region, 2013, 14%
Chenin Blanc
Wine-making: 12 months in 50% new French oak
Note: Smells very enticing with bruised, spiced apple, custard and little stone-fruit. Creamy, mouth-filling palate but in no way heavy with a good line of acidity holding things together. Will be even better in another 18 months when the oak is more fully integrated.
Price: 1,250NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Finesse

Bellingham, Bernard Series, Pinotage, Stellenbosch, 2013, 14%
Wine-making: 50% new French Oak for 12 months
Note: Smoky with an industrial twang (that is not pejorative, I often find Syrah with this same industrial/machine oil/earthy/mineral thing). Plenty of black fruit both fresh and baked/scorched alongside some dried flowers. Supple tannins but with enough grip to keep you interested and with a subtle dose of vanilla and spice from the oak. Very enjoyable and one for Syrah lovers to try.
Price: 1,950NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Finesse

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