The story of Cape chenin blanc has been a rags-to-riches fairy tale that would have been deemed implausible — even by the standards of the genre — had anyone suggested it as recently as 1990. Until then, of the options open to the country’s wineries, chenin was the least respected by value, but the most important variety by volume.

About 30% of the national vineyard was planted to it. Everything from Grand Mousseux Vin Doux bubbly to almost all the wine destined for the booming brandy industry was made from it. It was the base of generic blanc de blanc blends and the heart of Nederburg’s famous Edelkeur Noble Late Harvest. It was used to fill flagons of Autumn Harvest Crackling and bocksbeutels of Grunberger Stein. It was the vinous equivalent of the good-time-that-was-had-by-all girl...

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