MICHAEL FRIDJHON: SA chenins are enjoying their place in the sun
Standard Bank’s Chenin Challenge shows that progress has been little short of extraordinary in 30 years
The annual Chenin Challenge, sponsored for the past several years by Standard Bank, took over from a competition started by Wine Magazine almost 30 years ago. At its inception it was the event that helped to lift the image of chenin from the tawdry place it had been consigned to by an industry that preferred to exploit its versatility rather than to allow it to express its extraordinary range.
The first few Chenin Challenges attracted 30 to 40 submissions. Mostly they were wines, overcropped and bland, optimistically entered by the managers of the then ubiquitous co-ops, imbued with the hallmark fermentation aromas of fresh guava. However, a few adventurous winemakers working on estates and private cellars had started experimenting with wood maturation, lees contact — even with back-blending small amounts of botrytis-infected grapes...