Home > Dining Out, Food, Liquor Industry, Travel, Wine > Perdeberg cracks the nod in Chenin Blanc Challenge

Perdeberg cracks the nod in Chenin Blanc Challenge


The drive up to Hidden Valley is not for the faint hearted. After turning of the Annandale Road hard by Peter Falke Wines, the road narrows alarmingly, and each approaching blind corner and rise pushes up the pulse rate from the adrenaline spurt which anticipates taking sudden avoiding action if an oncoming motorist, perhaps inattentive from imbibing at one or more of the many wine estates along the road, challenges you.

Fortunately, I was a passenger last Thursday, kindly being chauffeured by wine writing colleague Samarie Smith who was that day our DD (designated driver), to the awards luncheon at Bertus Basson’s iconic Overture at Hidden Valley for the annual WINE Magazine Chenin Blanc Challenge.

One hundred and eleven wines were entered this year, and because of a change in format, 12 – two 4½ stars and ten 4 stars – were recognised for their excellence.

Riaan Moller

The overall winner was Perdeberg’s 4½ star Rex Equus 2008, made by Riaan Moller, and at R180 a bottle ex cellar, might be deemed expensive for a Chenin Blanc. What you smell and taste though, would very quickly dispel that notion. Guests had the opportunity to taste all of the winning wines before the formalities got under way, and Riaan’s Chenin Blanc was the second one I tried.

A deep yellow in colour (like when you’ve taken your vitamin pill in the morning!), the citrus and honey aromas leap out of the glass, underpinned by buttery, oaky notes and the faintest hint of Seville orange marmalade.

The flavour profile is intense, featuring lemon, lime, and yellow stone fruit. The palate is full bodied, with a gentle nuttiness, and the oak is gentle, the acid balanced, the finish languorous.

Interestingly, the winning wine was also entered in 2009 the Chenin Blanc Challenge, and achieved 3½ stars, pointing to just how well the wine has developed in the bottle in intervening two years.

The Best Value Wine to emerge was the 4 star Douglas Green 2010, At R31.50 per bottle. I found this puzzling quite frankly, on two fronts. Ten of the 12 top wines were rated 4 star and the Douglas Green was not amongst them so how many others rated 4 stars didn’t make it into the top 12, and why?

Of the ten 4 star wines that made it into the top 12, three retail ex cellar at R35 or under, to whit Kanu 2009 (R35), Leopards’ Leap (R34.99) amd Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Bush Vines 2010 (R33). In my view it would have made more sense to select the Best Value Wine, which is arrived at by assessing both price point and rating, from the top 12, because what we effectively now have, is the top 13.

The range of styles was intriguing, from the dry and elegant to the full bodied to the almost off-dry. The 2009 Kanu Chenin Blanc for example, had 7.55g/l residual sugar. In his comments, judging panel chairman Michael Fridjhon (our very own Albert Einstein of South African wine!) noted the continuing evolution of styles over time, pointing out the great advantage of substantial plantings of old Chenin vineyards which offer the discerning winemaker a wide array of flavour profiles, more than any other category in the local industry.

Tasting was blind, using the 20 point/ five star rating system. Day one was devoted to screening of the 111 entrants and selection of wines to go through to the second round in day two. A nuance in the judging is the introduction of what amounts to a “Minority Report” (which would have warmed the cockles of Tom Cruise’s character in the 2002 sci-fi blockbuster!), whereby if any one judge was insistent that a wine knocked out in the first round should go through to round two, it was permitted. This afforded the opportunity to re-taste, discuss and persuade.

Michael Fridjhon, chairman of the judging panel for the Chenin Blanc Challenge

“Judging is a tough business,” said Mr Michael. “There are often hard comments, but there is never acrimony. At the end of the day, the collegial view prevails.”

Thirty three wines went through into day two, and of those, after much tasting, re-tasting, debate and discussion, the winning wines emerged.

Chenin Blanc Association deputy chair Jeff Grier commented that the variety of styles in in some senses an Achilles Heel for the varietal. He went on to say that the research is underway to come up with an easy visual key for the back label which will make it easier for the consumer to select the right wine for their palate.  The four under consideration are: fresh and fruity, unwooded; rich and ripe, unwooded; rich and ripe, wooded; and sweet.

Assiete of Citrus, a dessert made in heaven by Bertus Basson

The proceedings were punctuated by a fabulous lunch prepared by Bertus Basson and his team. The freshly baked breads preceded luxurious gnocchi with bacon and peas, followed by succulent Spier pasture-reared chicken (a tender roasted breast and a crumbed drumstick) with pommes cocottes and organic vegetables. The dessert was titled Assiette of Citrus and an assortment it indeed was: a creamy tangerine ice cream, moist crumbed sponge cake with orange cream topping and a silky citrus panacotta with a citrus curd topping. Heavenly!

The top wines were of course all available to drink, but responsible drinking prevailed, with a number of people either restricting their intake to a glass or two over the duration of the event, or drinking non-alcoholic beverages after sipping and spitting the various wines.

The journey home in the safe hands of “Designated Dave”(or should that Davina?), Samarie Smith was infused with a sense of well-being and deep appreciation, for the excellence of the food, and the great wines that were showcased for wine drinkers to enjoy responsibly in the coming year.

  1. Timothy Bourne
    January 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Hi Norman, great article! Interesting and inviting with the great pic’s! Tim

    November 22, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    who won the blind tasting ??

    • November 22, 2011 at 7:23 pm

      Hi Stephanie,
      That we do not know I’m afraid!

  1. January 26, 2011 at 6:07 pm

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