Saturday, 8 June 2013
The Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc Style Council
Johan Joubert, winemaker@Kleine Zalze
In mid-May I was lucky enough to be invited to an evening and dinner tasting the Kleine Zalze's Chenin Blancs made by Johan Joubert. The event was held at Orrery, at the top end of Marylebone High Street.
We started the exclusively Chenin evening with the fresh and easy drinking 2013 Foot of Africa coming from mainly trellised vines. Then we moved onto a fascinating vertical of their Vineyard Selection running from 2008 through to 2003, which was the year that Joubert joined the company. This was the first time they had held such a vertical.
Before we started Joubert outlined the current position with Chenin Blanc in South Africa: 18100 hectares and accounts for a third of all white grape plantings in South Africa. 10-15 years ago the total plantings of South African Chenin was a little over 30,000 hectares representing a third of all (red and white) of the vines planted. Unfortunately old South African bush Chenin continues to be ripped out because of their low yields – the bush vine bunches are considerably smaller than those on a trellised vine.
Joubert: "In 2011, 80 hectares were pulled out and only eight hectares replanted. Last year 69 hectares were ripped out and 13ha replanted."
If this continues South Africa will find all too quickly that it has thrown away a priceless heritage. Sadly this is has happened all too regularly in the wine world – all the old Carignan vines pulled out in the Languedoc in the name of progress is just one example.
Joubert's solution is to try to make holding onto old vines more financially viable by aiming for higher quality and giving Chenin Blanc a higher profile and a greater appreciation of its qualities with the objective of moving high quality South African Chenin up the price points.
Vineyard Selection Vertical: 2008-2003
90% of the fruit from the same block of old bush vines. These wines have a proportion of botrytised grapes, naturally varying from vintage to vintage. The vertical demonstrated that dry South African Chenin Blanc ages well. One could confidently keep all of these wines, even the 2003, a good number of years more.
2008: mid gold, honey, touch of petrol, texture, hint salty, soft delicate finish with gentle acidity.
2007: light baked apricot texture, honeysuckle, weight, less expressive but good length. Hotter vintage
2006: light to mid gold, honey, touch of petrol, slightly baked, concentrated character, complexity, length.
2005: mid gold, foncée, evolved aromas, texture, rich, power, botrytis influence
2004: mid gold, rich concentration, complexity.
2003: mid gold, texture rich and full. Peachy, apricot. Power and length. Good acidity. Lovely complex wine.
A change in direction
Joubert explained that recently the estate had decided to change direction with their Chenins aiming for a fresher, more citric style by picking earlier to lower the alcohol and to avoid botrytis.
To see the change in style we tried the 2012 Vineyard Selection and 2012 Family Reserve. The Family Reserve is the estate's top wine range and the 2012 is the first time Chenin Blanc has been included in the range. Of the two 2012s I found the Family Reserve to work much better than the Vineyard Selection.
2012 Family Reserve
Some wood and quince, tight needs time. Length. Should come back to this in three years. Good concentration and balance.
Put into Loire terms the earlier vintages of the Vineyard Selection have echoes of Anjou, while the new style is more reminiscent of Montlouis and Vouvray. Alternatively it also mirrors the radical change to his white wines that Thierry Germain (Domaine des Roches Neuves) made a few years ago.
The main course@Orrery
2012 Vineyard Selection and 2012 Family Reserve