ALISTAIR GIBSON: The evolution of cheninÂ '“Â from the Loire Valley to The CapeÂ
It seemsÂ every week there is a day to celebrate everything from a national dish,Â to a grape variety.Â This week there wasÂ another one, Friday was #DrinkCheninDay.Â
Chenin blancÂ was classified by Jancis Robinson MW in her seminal book Vines, Grapes andÂ WinesÂ as one of the classicÂ grapes, but of all the classic grapes it is probably theÂ least understood and appreciated.
Its home is in France's Loire Valley where itÂ produces dry, sweet and sparkling wines. However it is perhaps in South Africa overÂ the past decade whereÂ chenin blanc has really nudged its way into the public'sÂ consciousness.
Chenin blanc is by far South Africa's most planted grape variety,Â accounting for almost 20 per cent of all plantings.Â
Indeed, South Africa has more chenin blanc than the rest of the worldÂ combined.
Perhaps unsurprisingly #DrinkCheninDay was established in South AfricaÂ so here are three wines to try this weekend.
Irresistible Chenin Blanc 2017,Â Darling (Co-op Â£6.99) is the perfect introduction, and also one of the best valueÂ white wines on supermarket shelves I've tasted this year.
Made from grapes grownÂ on the Cape's cool climate West Coast, it's summer in a glass.
The nose isÂ very fresh with notes of crisp apples, pear skin, some tropical fruits and a touch ofÂ honey, followed by some juicy fruits on the palate with some crunchy, zesty acidity.
Would make a lovely aperitif or serve with some simply grilled mackerel or maybeÂ even sushi.
A step up is Kaapzicht Bush VineÂ Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch (Waitrose Â£10.49 on offer from Â£13.99 until July 10).Â Owned by the Steytler family since 1946, the farm takes its name from itsÂ position with its views towards Table Mountain, hence the name Kaapzicht whichÂ translates as Cape View.
Made from a single vineyard of old bush vines, the wine isÂ fermented and then matured in a variety of older oak barrels.
The bouquet offersÂ crunchy green apple, yellow peach, orange zest and just the merest hint of oak inÂ the background, the palate is very fresh and quite textured with well-balancedÂ acidity and a crisp, dry finish. Pair this with fish cakes or quiche and salad.
If I hadÂ to choose one Cape chenin blanc to drink this weekend it would be ReynekeÂ Chenin Blanc 2016, Stellenbosch (Hermitage Cellars Â£13.95 on offer from Â£15.25)Â made on one of the very few bio-dynamic and organic wine farms in South Africa.
This shows just what can be achieved in the Cape with this variety. Fermented inÂ older oak,Â it shows pear skin, mandarin, apple and some spice on the nose. TheÂ palate is again very textured but still very fresh with peach and pear fruit and justÂ the beginning of some savoury notes, before a long, fulfilling finish.
This would ageÂ happily for another five-plus years but it's difficult to resist now.