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Thursday, 23 May 2013

South Africa's Kleine Zalze

South Africa's Kleine Zalze is based in the Stellenbosch region; the vineyards are at altitude and no more than 50km from the ocean, providing some coolness and freshness in the wines.

Winemaker Johan Joubert came over to London to present a tasting exclusively of Chenins at The Orrery in Marylebone, followed by dinner.

Part of the evening was a vertical of Chenin Blanc museum pieces back to 2003, along with the launch of a new-style Family Reserve, written up here.

In between these, we also tasted some more widely-available Chenins from Kleine Zalze's range.

I have historically struggled with Chenin, finding it often thin, tart and sour and decided that Victoria Beckham might be a suitable analogy - inherently rather dull, but ambitious enough to become interesting with a few makeovers.

Organiser Louise Hill suggested Carey Mulligan as an analogy; "pure blond raw material which is gorgeous and seductive, given the right character". This, I think, is spot-on; I liked all of these (very different) Chenins unreservedly.

Foot of Africa 2013 (not available in UK, but a best-seller in Sweden) herbaceous, Sauvignon-esque nose, with varietal "mustard and cress" aromas; fresh, soft texture - very pleasant entry-level wine.

Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2013 (Waitrose RRP £7.99) from low-yielding bush vines, aromatic and herbaceous, crisp and fresh yet rich and round. White pepper aromas, white pear fruit. Good linear acidity with a grippy mouthfeel; persistent finish.

Cellar Selection Chenin Blanc 2013 (independents, SAWinesonline.co.uk, £8.49) aromatic white flowers, subtle cress aromas, lime zest / lime marmalade. White tea tanninic buzz and some firmness on the finish; this feels softer, more rounded than the Bush Vine.

Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc 2012 (independents RRP £9.99, SAWinesonline.co.uk £10.19) pale in the glass, fresh and floral, lots of aromatic white pepper, lanolin texture, good length, salinity and minerality.

Recommended Wine

Of the three here, my favourite was the racy, zingy Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2013; Jancis Robinson includes it in her Best Buys under £10 and marks it as VGV - very good value.

The dinner after the tasting gave a chance to see how versatile these wines can be with food and they matched very well to the strong flavours served up by The Orrery.

Starter: seafood raviolo and lobster bisque
Main: sea bass with an orange and orange zest garnish
Other related articles
Chenin Blanc Style Council

Kleine Zalze - website, twitter
Waitrose - website, twitter
The Orrery - website, twitter
SAWinesonline - website

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