An award winning dry land Chenin Blanc
23 September 2016
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Jenny Crwys-Williams: Well thanks for tuning in to listen to Old Mutual Live Wine Edition on mobile, on digital, on demand. Now the summer that lies waiting before us is filled with wonderful wine-drinking experiences. One of them is the growing sophistication of our Chenin Blancs. In the recent Chenin Blanc top ten challenge, some great summer drinking was discovered and lorded.
One of the estates that did brilliantly with its Chenin Blanc’s was Perdeberg. With its already award-winning Perdeberg, the Dry Land Collection Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2013. It’s a mouthful, I haven’t tasted it but I’m dying to, so congratulations to Perdeberg’s cellar master, Albertus Louw. Albertus, congratulations to you and this is a significant award isn’t it?
Albertus Louw: Yes, it’s really significant for us. Chenin is a really big focus for us at Perdeberg. I think getting three in a row for three consecutive vintages was just really great for us.
JCW: Well, that is a huge achievement especially as it’s a brand new wine range. It’s only been going, I think it first started in 2013.
AL: Yes, we really started the range in 2013 and it’s really just been terrific for us. We’ve had a massive growth in sales. I think, accolades on all of the wines being really good, so we’re just really grateful for that.
How a dry land wine is grown
JCW: All right, now it’s called the Dry Land Collection, Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc. Just take us through the dry land bit, explain to ordinary consumers who just want to glug it back, tell us a bit more about it.
AL: Yes, I think this dry land concept is just vineyards growing in their natural state. So what it actually means is there’s no water added, irrigation. It’s not watered by irrigation, so the vineyards, they get the water from the rain. They need to survive on that and that just creates a totally different environment for these vines. Then they really get these small berries that’s full of flavour. Just gives you wine that’s full of flavour in the end.
JCW: Where about are these vineyards, is it actually on your estate or do you buy it in?
AL: We don’t own our own vineyards, we contract vineyards from long-term contracts. So these vineyards are very nearby to us, it’s in the Agter-Paarl as we call it. That is actually between Paarl and Durbanville, but the appellation is Paarl region.
JCW: All right, so I was thinking maybe it’s in the far reaches of the Swartberg where some of the old vines, in fact really they’re over 50 years of age. But these aren’t necessarily old vines, they’re dry land vines.
AL: Yes, some of the vines are also quite old. The wines are made from two vineyards and the one is 32 years old. The other one is just nearly 30 years old. So I think it is, it’s not that old but it is seen as old vines already.
Finding the right vineyards to purchase from
JCW: How difficult is it for you to find these estates. When I say estates, these fields of vines that are mature. Because a lot of them don’t actually pay their way and I think they’re becoming quite scarce.
AL: Yes, it’s actually a big concern for the industry that all these beautiful old vines. Is that they’ve been taken out and at the end of the day sometimes it’s an economic decision for a producer to take them out. But we’ve really made some efforts to keeps these vines going. Making efforts to create different products just to sell them through and by that we can make wonderful wines from these old vines.
JCW: Speak to me briefly, because it is not just the range, the Dry Land Collection, Barrel Fermented. It’s a whole host of wines, it is not just the Chenin Blanc.
AL: Yes, we have actually got nine wines in this range. On the white wines there is a Sauvignon Blanc and there’s also the un-wooded Chenin Blanc. Then there’s a Pinot Noir Chardonnay blend, a really nice wine, pinkish, very solemn coloured light wine. Then you’ve got the red wine; Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and then two blended wines as well.
JCW: Albertus, this whole collection had huge success in the China Wine & Spirit Awards in Hong Kong recently.
AL: Yes as I said, we’re just so grateful for the accolades we’re receiving. The Shiraz got a double gold and there were another four gold’s and a silver award as well. So it just shows that the quality for the range is of a very high standard and that’s very important for us.
The challenges of making a dry land wine
JCW: I’m sure it is. Any challenges in actually making these Dry Land Collection wines for you?
AL: Yes, I think for us, because of the vines living in this natural state, you really need to manage the vineyards really good. Make sure when you harvest the grapes that your timing is absolutely perfect. To provide the right standards in the wines at the end of the day.
JCW: When would you harvest, would you harvest in February or later?
AL: We’ve got a philosophy that we go and we taste the berries and make sure that we get the right flavours in the berries. The ripeness of tannins. That will end up giving you the right wine. So we don’t have a fixed date. I think we read the season because that’s so interesting of winemaking, every season is different. You need to adapt to the season to make sure that the wines are on standard.
The appeal of Chenin Blanc
JCW: What is the appeal of Chenin Blanc. Because it seems to me that Ken Forrester and a couple of others sort of resuscitated Chenin Blanc about 20 years ago. But people when they go to a restaurant or they go to have a drink invariably are choosing Sauvignon Blanc. But all of a sudden out of almost nowhere it seems to me, but I guess lots and lots of years of hard work. The Chenin Blancs are now suddenly the wines that you should be drinking.
AL: You know I think Chenin is just so versatile. There’s just totally different wine styles that you can make from Chenin. From dry, fresh, crisp wines up to wooded wines and even sweet wines. So I think what Chenin for me personally, Chenin has got this nice, mild acidity. It really goes with food especially when you’re looking at more serious styles like the dry and barrel fermented Chenin Blanc. It just really works very, very well with food and different types of food.
JCW: I wonder how easily the consumer is going to accept this challenge. Because I think that there’s so many new varietals coming onto the market that are equally worthwhile tasting. Instead of, I mean I also like Sauvignon Blanc, but there are other wines that actually match them on every single level. Like these new Chenin Blancs.
AL: I think such a wonderful thing is that Chenin Blanc is so well-priced in the market and it’s interesting, I think if you look at the overseas press, Chenin Blanc is the really next big thing out there. We’re really happy to see that. I think there will be really growth for Chenin because Chenin in South Africa. I think apart from the Loire in France, which is the region where Chenin grows. I think South Africa can really make Chenin its own.
JCW: Yes, instead of just using it as a wine for blending. Use it as a standalone varietal.
AL: Yes, and I think also earlier we talked about these old vines that we have and making vineyard specific wines to make interesting wines. So I think that will also pick up the image of Chenin Blanc.
JCW: Well listen, congratulations to you and to your team and winning this award. I gather it is the very, very first time that your Perdeberg wines have walked away with this award three-years in a row. Because that’s how old this range of wines is in the first place.
AL: Yes, that is really just great for us, we’re really satisfied.
JCW: Well, congratulations to you. That’s Albertus Louw of Perdeberg and Albertus, thank you so much.
AL: Always, it’s a pleasure.
JCW: I also want to mention and it also comes from South Africa’s top Chenin Blanc. Spier’s 21 Gable Chenin Blanc 2015, that seemed to have, sort of was top of the pops as well. Might well be worthwhile you trying. Also Kleine Zalze, they’ve got two of the Chenin Blanc also in the top ten awards. So Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2015 and the Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc Barrel-fermented 2015.
So I think there’s a host of wonderful wines here. I’m going to try the Perdeberg because I can’t wait to whet my appetite with something as delicious as this actually sounds. Well, thanks for joining me for another episode of Old Mutual Live Wine Edition, I’m Jenny Crwys-Williams.