“You are a bit of a young fogey at heart, aren’t you?” observed UK wine writer and international judge at this year’s Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, Anthony Rose. This rhetorical question was directed at me as I was defending a particular style of Chenin Blanc deemed to be ‘traditional’ and therefore less desirable.
We were seeking to identify the top Chenins – worthy of an Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show Gold Medal – and, unfortunately, the style I was punting just wasn’t as appealing as the more ‘luminous’ and bright styles in the line-up. “That is Jean Daneel [Chenin] five years ago,” noted panel chairman Christian Eedes, implying that we have moved beyond that. But I liked Jean Daneel’s Chenins then, and shoot me, but I still do.
Alas, as with fashion there are trends in wine too, and the more opulent, rich Chenin styles have become as trendy as yesterday’s dungaree – and as an old-at-heart Associate Judge I wasn’t going to convince the panel of experts otherwise.
According to the OMTWS Chenin panel on-trend are descriptors like “fresh” and “bright” – clear fruit expression with the ‘manipulative’ elements like sugar, oaking & botrytis understated and lending a supportive role.
What did emerge from the line-up is that we make killer – killer – Chenin Blanc in this country. Don’t know what to buy? You can’t go wrong with Chenin, which can’t be said for local Merlot.
For my sins this was what ‘my’ panel got to taste next. There was the expected pool of over-extracted, oxidised, green, abrasive, acetone bombs, but also relief in the form of delicious savoury and bramble styles – the latter quite liked by Mr. Rose.
Last year Hillcrest Quarry 2008 won the Trophy for Best Merlot, while there was no Gold Medal in the Chenin Blanc category…
To see whether we did a good job at truly identifying the best, see www.trophywineshow.co.za on 30 May – and you be the judge.