South African Chenin Blanc is on a roll. Back from a highly successful showcase at leading trade show ProWein in Germany, and soon to be a key focus of an international wine congress, the Cinderella grape is seeing sales powering ahead at home and abroad. The news comes as the Chenin Blanc Association, organiser of the annual Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge, is calling on new and established winemakers to enter this year’s competition.

Entries open July 8. Submissions will be assessed by a panel of seasoned critics, winemakers and sommeliers that this year includes French sommelier Fabien Laine, who is also an entrepreneur, photographer and cinematographer, and a multi-media content creator on wine, gastronomy and travel.

Ken Forrester, a founder and chairperson of the Chenin Blanc Association, said that ever since the 1990s, when South African winemakers set on transforming a pedestrian and unremarkable grape into a serious contender worthy of critical attention, Chenin had more than ably demonstrated its appeal to specialists and the wider, popular market.

“Last year, it was the only white varietal to show export growth, with year-on-year volumes up by 5%, a performance that forms part of a long-term pattern. Exports have been growing virtually without interruption since the start of the century. Between 2010 and 2018, volumes were up 19%. At home, the story is the same. Last year alone, volumes grew 45%.”

He added that the selection of 60 Chenins tasted at ProWein earlier this year had impressed delegates. “They could sample serious, complex wines made from vines 35 years and older, and they could try bright, fresh and fruity styles in a line-up that could convincingly highlight the best in South Africa’s new generation and classic winemaking talent.”

Local Chenin is soon to come under the spotlight again, when it is featured in the first-ever international congress dedicated to the grape, to be held from July 1 to 3 in Angers, France. Entitled “Chenin Blanc in a changing environment”, it will bring together the two largest Chenin regions in the world, South Africa and the Loire. The event will focus on growing knowledge and stimulating further research into the grape. It will also explore Chenin’s varied history, terroir and approach to wine-growing and winemaking, as well as its role in wine tourism.

Entries should be delivered to Villiera in Stellenbosch between July 15 and the closing date of July 18. The winners will be announced on August 30.

For more information, visit their website here…

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