ALISTAIR GIBSON: Irresistible wines from the Cape to embrace the spring

Irresistible Chenin Blanc 2017, Darling (Co-op)
Irresistible Chenin Blanc 2017, Darling (Co-op)
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The first day of spring arrives on Tuesday, March 20, and I will, without a doubt, be ready to embrace it. 

It is a very British topic of conversation but actually I think the change of the seasons is one of the great joys of living in this country.

Raats Family Wines Original Chenin Blanc Coastal Region South Africa

Raats Family Wines Original Chenin Blanc Coastal Region South Africa

Each season brings with it different weather patterns, a change in daylight hours and perhaps most interestingly, seasonal foods.

Here’s some thoughts on wines to welcome in spring.

Chenin blanc has seen a tremendous surge in interest over the past few years. It is one of the most food versatile white wines and if you are getting just a little tired of Marlborough sauvignon blanc then Cape chenin is definitely a wine destination worth a visit.

Irresistible Chenin Blanc 2017, Darling (Co-op £6.99) is one of the standout wines in the Co-op’s Irresistible range and as an instruction to Cape chenin blanc there is no better place to start.

Stanley Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Awatere Valley, Marlborough

Stanley Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Awatere Valley, Marlborough

This is produced from grapes grown in Darling, which is a relatively new region on the Cape’s west coast, which has the benefit of being cooled by the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Unwooded, this is the very essence of chenin blanc – crunchy green apple, ripe pear, citrus fruit and just a touch of honey followed by some juicy fruit one the palate with some crunchy acidity.

This is fantastic value, try it with simply grilled mackerel fillets or some garlic prawns.

Trade up a little and you get a wine made by Bruwer Raats, acknowledged as one of the Cape’s chenin blanc kings.

Raats Family Wines Original Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch (winedirect.co.uk £10.95, Hermitage Cellars £10.25) is another unwooded example but this has more depth and concentration than the Darling chenin blanc.

There is a more than a hint of tropical fruit here with some pineapple alongside melon,

apple and citrus fruit on the nose followed by a really fresh, lively palate with juicy acidity on the finish.

Wonderfully fresh wine, try this with some sushi or a mild curry. If you still need some Kiwi sauvignon clanc in your glass then try and skip some of the ‘entry level’ supermarket wines, many of which seem to have more residual sugar in them than is necessary.

Stanley Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Awatere Valley, Marlborough (Hennings Wine £16.50, Hermitage Cellars £10.25 on offer from £13.25) is from one of Marlborough’s most interesting producers.

Founded by English couple Steve Pellett and Bridget Ennals, who settled in Marlborough

having previously travelled the length of Africa in an old Landrover they’d named ‘Stanley’.

The wine is made by talented winemaker Eveline Fraser and it shows just why Marlborough sauvignon blanc first caught our imagination.

It’s very aromatic with grapefruit, passion fruit, gooseberries and a hint of tomato stalk, followed by zesty acidity which beautifully balances the fruit and mineral lead palate.

A bit early for English asparagus maybe but this would be the perfect match, welcome to spring. 

Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars, Emsworth. Call (01243) 431002 or e-mail

alistair@hermitagecellars.co.uk​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​