Chenin Blanc, a “Loire and South African specialty making crisp sometimes long-lived wines with varying degrees of sweetness that deserve more recognition.” … Jancis Robinson, Wine Grapes
I’m spending an “off-hour” today with an old friend: Raats Family Wines' “Original” Chenin Blanc. Quoting Wine Spectator, “With more Chenin Blanc acreage than even France’s Loire Valley, South Africa is a major player in this distinctive varietal.” While that is true, I’m always surprised that more wine drinkers are unaware of this.
Raats is a staple here at “Mizer Manor” and here’s why: Vines are 35 years of age with some at 68 plus. Grapes are picked at three different times between mid-January and mid-February and from different plots. Those grown on granite soil yield wines with crisp acidity, citrus and minerality. Those grown on soil with more sandstone produce wines that are softer and more fruity with pear, quince and a hint of honey.
Blended, it makes for a wine of interesting contrasts with spot-on balance. Raats vinifies and ages the juice (in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks) separately before blending. But before that, the wine rests on its lees for six months – accounting for its rich texture. An interesting tanginess contrasts its off-dry character. Aromas of sour apple, citrus and lemon. Tastes of lemongrass, quince and citrus with ginger balanced by honeysuckle in a rich weighted Chenin, reminding me of a Vouvray, but drier, with nice minerality and a clean finish from spot-on acidity.
Unoaked and fresh, this wine would be great with grilled scallops, but fine on its own or with an aged Cheddar and Gruyere cheese plate, Thai curries, oysters (grilled with peach sauce) and sushi. Raats also makes an “Old Vine” Chenin Blanc which is different – and interesting too given that the original is from vines averaging 35 years. But it’s probably best is to taste each side-by-side and decide for yourself.
Occasionally, you come across a "common" wine that is made so uncommonly, you know at first taste that you're enjoying something unique. That's Raats' "Original" Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa. And with an ARP of $14, it's "Mizer" recommended.
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Raats Family Wines: https://raats.co.za/
SIDE NOTE: Wine Spectator (Oct 31, 2018 issue) just rated this wine 89 points (I rate it “case worthy”) with an ARP of just $15, saying “Plump and friendly, offering yellow apple, white ginger and chamomile notes backed by a juicy, unadorned finish.” ALC: 13.5% Imported by Cape Classics
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