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Chenin Blanc

South Africa’s Simonsig celebrates 50 Years of Wine Making

South Africa’s Simonsig celebrates 50 Years of Wine Making

2018 marks 50 years of winemaking for The Malan Family. They’ve been making wine outside Stellenbosch under the Simonsig Family Vineyards label since 1968. Just two years later, in 1970 they introduced their first red. They’ve continued to push the quality envelope over time and widen their portfolio with complementary offerings when and where they fit in well. Their flagship wine remains Chenin Blanc but that is in a sense the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the breadth their portfolio offers.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to taste their wines alongside members of the Malan family and winemaking team on a number of occasions. Recently however I sampled some of their wines in an entirely different manner. To mark the occasion of their 50th one of the events they hosted was a virtual wine tasting. Members of the family and winemaking team sat in a room in South Africa and a number of participating journalists tuned in over YouTube and tasted along from our homes or offices.

There’s a richness and diversity to their portfolio that becomes apparent when tasting a number of their wines side by side. They have several Sparkling wines in their lineup and these are a bit of a secret weapon as they’re not the most famous wines they make, but they’re uniformly well made, delicious and solid, or better values. Tasting two distinct expressions of Pinotage side by side is a good way to see the range of this grape. And the Chenin Blanc stands as one of the outstanding white wine values in the world. During the chat I paired the wines below with Indian Cuisine which was a terrific match.

Simonsig Kaape Vonkel Brute Rosé ($25)

This Brute is composed of Pinot Noir (64%), Pinotage (34%), and Pinot Meunier (2%).  From the lovely pink hue through the above average finish everything about this offering is impressive. Fresh red fruit and bits of spice dot the nose. The palate is fruity and delicate. Bits of biscuit appear on the finish.

Simonsig 2017 Chenin Blanc ($14)

This is composed entirely of Chenin Blanc. One vintage after another this wine is a steal. It’s delicious, food friendly, refreshing, and a great example of Chenin Blanc. It leads with a massive nose loaded with tropical, citrus and fleshy yellow fruit aromas. All of those elements translate to the palate along with bits of spice. The mellifluous finish features a continuing burst of fruit. Racy acid keeps everything in check.

Simonsig 2015 Pinotage ($18)

This cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault was created in South Africa in the 1920’s. Simonsig released their first in 1970. Red and black fruits are joined by hints of tar on the nose. The palate is stuffed with black cherry, raspberry and baker’s spices. Sour red and black fruits round out the finish. This offering is a great match for nearly anything you pull from your grill.

Simonsig 2015 Redhill Pinotage ($38)

This offering, made up of 100% Pinotage, is a barrel selection of wines aged in entirely new oak. Black plum and spice are at the core of the aromatics. Black fig, cherry and bits of Raspberry drive the palate. The finish is long and somewhat lusty with black fruits, tinged by red continuing in droves. This wine is a perfect accompaniment to hearty dishes and will work phenomenally with smoked meats of any sort.

Simonsig 2015 Frans Malan ($38)

This blend is named after their founder. It’s brings together Pinotage (67%), Cabernet Sauvignon (29%), and Merlot (4%).  They’ve been making this wine since 1991. Aromas of red cherry, raspberry and plum are evident along with a solid core of spices. Sour red and black fruits underpin the mélange of sweeter red fruits on display through the palate. The palate shows off hints of baker’s chocolate and earth.

In South Africa Female Winemakers Help Lead the Charge

In South Africa Female Winemakers Help Lead the Charge

It’s been roughly 20 years’ time since South Africa became part of the Global Wine Community once again. In those two decades the quality of wines has increased and there have been great strides in the South African Wine Industry. Among the many other things that have changed, the number of Women winemakers has increased. And while the increase in diversity alone is cause for celebration that’s just a sliver of what’s happening.

Dry Creek Vineyard - 2012 Dry Chenin Blanc

Dry Creek Vineyard is a family owned winery that is the namesake vineyard of their appellation as well as stunningly consistent producer of fine wines. Whether you’re looking for everyday values, appellation specific offerings or single vineyard wines, Dry Creek Vineyard has something to offer. They absolutely kill it when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel, the two key grapes of Dry Creek Valley. But they do so much more. Here’s a look at the current vintage of one of their best value wines. The Dry Creek Vineyard 2012 Dry Chenin Blanc was produced entirely from fruit sourced in the Clarksburg region of California. This offering is 100% Chenin Blanc. The vines these grapes came from had an average age of 10 years when this harvest occurred. Fermentation took place over 28 days in temperature controlled stainless steel. Just more than 13,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $12. This wine has an ostentatious nose that simply leaps from the glass with white peach and Lychee fruit aromas dominating. Apricot and mango flavors are prominent on the palate along with a bit of spice. There is a fruity edge to the mellifluous finish which gives the impression of sweetness as is persists and lingers on the back of the throat.

This wine from Dry Creek Vineyard has been remarkably consistent in quality and value year after year. Their Dry Chenin Blanc offering represents one of the very best examples of the grape being produced in California. It also happens to be one of great and most reliable picnic wines out there. If you shop around you’re going to find this wine for less than $10. That’s an absolutely excellent value for a wine this is refreshing, pairs well with casual foods and is just fun to drink. For several vintages now they have been finishing this wine in screw cap, which is another advantage for this wine being a great on the go choice. Fresh, vibrant wines, made for consumption in their youth are perfect for screw cap and the Dry Chenin Blanc fits all the criteria. The bottom line for me is that I love this wine; year after year it represents a really well made example of Chenin Blanc that is also an outstanding value. If you’re not yet familiar with it, you’re missing out on a truly lovely bargain.

Simonsig Family Vineyards - 2011 Chenin Blanc

The Malan Family has been making wine outside Stellenbosch under the Simonsig Family Vineyards label since 1968. A couple of years later, in 1970 they introduced the first red. They’ve continued to push the quality envelope over time and widen their portfolio with complementary offerings when and where they fit in well. Their flagship wine however remains the Chenin Blanc; I’ll take a look at the current release today. The Simonsig Family Vineyards 2011 Chenin Blanc was produced using fruit sourced in several locations; the majority comes from the greater Simonsberg area. This offering is 100% Chenin Blanc. Fermentation took place in stainless steel, utilizing a select South African yeast. This 2011 release represents the 43rd vintage that Simonsig has produced Chenin Blanc. 28,000 cases of this widely available wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $11.99.

Aromas of hazelnut, Lychee, and papaya leap forth from the fresh, vibrant and welcoming nose of this 2011 Chenin Blanc. Bartlett pear, apricot, guava and an overall tropical mélange really shine through the palate of this wine which has a nice weighty, mouth-filling quality to it. Honey, nectarine and white pepper emerge on the finish which has good length and clings to the back of the throat for awhile. The Simonsig Chenin Blanc is well suited to drink on its own as well a pair with lighter foods. In particular it works well with appetizers.

Simonsig’s Chenin Blanc continues to be both a terrific value in general and a very nice example of how Chenin Blanc shines in South Africa in particular. If you shop around you can find it for right around $10 which is a bargain. With the holidays coming, stock up; this is a wine that will make all your guests smile.

Simonsig - 2008 Chenin Blanc

Simonsig_Chenin_Label_NV_mainA little over a year ago I had the opportunity to taste the Simonsig wines with Pieter Malan of Simonsig Family Vineyards; you can read my report from that lunch here. One of the standout wines was the 2007 Chenin Blanc. So when I had the opportunity to taste the 2008 vintage I was curious to see how it would be and if it would compare, stylistically and quality wise. Chenin Blanc is an important grape for South Africa as it tends to thrive there. The 2008 Sinonsig Family Vineyards Chenin Blanc was made from fruit mostly sourced in the Koelenhof area. This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc. Some of the harvested grapes had developed Botrytis. This "noble rot" is thought of more often when crafting dessert wines. 28,000 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $11.99

Apple, orange blossom and tangerine notes are all part of a bright, expressive, summery nose. The palate of this Chenin Blanc is rich and mouth-filling with creamy notes on the mid-palate that overlay and enhance tons of orchard fruit notes. Those are mostly ripe and bright, but hints of green apple do come through and add an additional dimension. Hazelnut, along with touches of honey emerge on the finish and give this wine hints of sweetness. This offering drinks quite nicely on it's own and there are quite a number of layers to contemplate. However this wine would also be a natural to pair with curry based Indian dishes.

The bottom line for me is that the 2008 Simonsig Chenin Blanc is a lovely expression of the varietal, from one of the key regions for this under-appreciated grape. It's also important to note that this offering is consistent in quality, style and overall value with the 2007 vintage.

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Lucas & Lewellen - 2008 Chenin Blanc

In certain areas of France and South Africa Chenin Blanc is widely planted and pretty highly regarded. And while it’s planted in many LL-CBregions throughout the world it doesn’t get nearly as much acclaim anywhere else. In the US Dry Creek Vineyard has been making an excellent one for years that they do quite well with. There are certainly other producers in California, but the noteworthy examples are few and far between. Today I’m looking at one from Lucas & Lewellen. The 2008 Chenin Blanc from Lucas & Lewellen is produced from fruit sourced at the Los Alamos Vineyard; part of the Santa Barbara AVA. This offering is 100% varietal. This wine was cold fermented. 376 cases were produced and the suggested retail price for this offering is $20.

This Chenin Blanc has an abundance of floral notes in the nose along with orange blossom and hints of spice. Lychee fruit, pineapple and mango are all part of the bright, fruity palate along with sweet pear nectar and touches of honey. Gentle but lingering spice makes up the finish. This wine has good acidity and is well balanced.

What I like about this wine is the wealth of appealing ripe fruit flavors. This Chenin Blanc has touches and hints of sweetness but is far from a truly sweet wine. Those hints however add a lot to the appeal of this selection and drive the desire to keep going back to the glass for another sip. This offering is delicious on its own but has the complexity to stand up to a variety of foods. Chicken based, spicy, Indian dishes would be a particularly good match. A lovely wine, made for summer.

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