When you hear the words “Chenin Blanc”, what comes to mind? Most people think of a crisp white wine, served chilled in an elegant wine glass on a summery day in South Africa. In South Africa, Chenin Blanc is just as popular as in the Loire Valley in France, where it originates from. Chenin Blanc is actually a type of grape that is specifically used to make white wine. It’s a grape with high acidity, making it perfect for creating crisp white wines, dessert wines, and even sparkling wines.
Outside of France, Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted grape variety in South African wine regions, such as Paarl in the Cape Winelands, Malmesbury in the Swartland region, and also the Olifants River region. Here in SA, we commonly called it “Steen”. The history of Chenin Blanc in South Africa is a little hazy, with history books saying either one of two things happened to bring the grape variety to the country; 1. It may have been the very first grape variety grown by Jan van Riebeeck in 1655, or 2. It was brought into SA by the Huguenots fleeing France in 1685. Either way, South Africans are quite happy that this delightful grape found its way to our shores and vineyards too!
Best South African Wines
South African Chenin
You might be wondering where you can get your hands on the best Chenin Blanc wines in South Africa. Well, the good news is that you can get the best South African wines in just about any liquor store both locally in SA and abroad. Here are few of the top Chenin Blanc brands to look out for (and this is according to world wine rankings).
- Cederburg Cellars Five Generations (particularly the 2017 release).
- DeMorgenzon Reserve (2018 was a good year).
- Durbanville Hills Collector’s Reserve – The Cape Garden (try out a 2018 bottle for the best experience).
- Flagstone Winery Tributary Bush Vine (2018 is a good year to try).
- Rijks Cellar Touch of Oak (the 2017 is a firm favourite).
- Stellenrust The Mothership (the 2018 release is a popular choice).
Of course, while these are considered the top choices in the country, there are Chenin Blanc wines from smaller wineries that are right up there with the best in terms of quality, flavour, and drinkability.
What to Pair with Chenin Blanc
While it’s nice to think of sipping back on an icy cold glass of Chenin Blanc wine on a hot day, food also plays a rather large role in the enjoyment thereof. Wine is known to enhance the flavours of a meal, so knowing what food to pair with your bottle of Chenin Blanc can turn a mediocre dining experience into a phenomenal one.
What’s good to know is that there are generally 3 types of Chenin Blanc wines that you can get and each type pairs well with a different type of meal. To know what you are getting when you buy a bottle of Chenin Blanc, it is best to read the wine’s description, usually found on the label at the back of the bottle. The descriptive words will usually say something along the lines of “fruity”, “oaked”, or “sweet”. These determine the 3 types of Chenin Blanc most commonly produced in South Africa.
- Fresh and Fruity Chenin Blanc
A bottle of Chenin Blanc that is described as “fresh” and “fruity” is a typically crisp flavoured wine that goes particularly well with vegetable dishes and salads. If you are making a particularly meaty or heavy dish, this is not the wine to pair with it.
- Oaky or Oaked Chenin Blanc
A bottle of Chenin Blanc that’s described as “oaky” or “oaked”, has a less sweet and crisp flavour than the fruity variety. It pairs really well with creamy dishes and with fish or chicken. If you are planning a light meal with salads, this is not the wine to choose. Think of pairing it with pastas or paellas.
- Sweet Chenin Blanc
A bottle of Chenin Blanc that is described as sweet is usually quite sweet and fruity. Expect this to be sweeter than other white wines you have tasted, so pair it with a strong flavoured dish such as blue cheese pizza or pasta.
Top Meal Ideas for South African Chenin Blanc
It’s one thing to say “pair your wine with something creamy or a vegetable dish”, but actually coming up with great meal ideas can be tough. To help you out, we have listed a few great meal ideas to pair with each type of Chenin Blanc you can get. Finding a recipe is as quick and easy as doing a Google search.
Meals that pair with fresh & fruity Chenin Blanc:
- Cold meat cuts and fresh salad.
- Roast root veggies (think parsnips, beetroot, carrots, and sweet potatoes).
- Roast butternut with cinnamon and sugar.
- Thinly sliced gammon served with roast veggies.
- Fresh fruit salad with guava, passion fruit and other tropical fruits.
Meals that pair well with oaky or oaked Chenin Blanc:
- Creamy chicken and mushroom pasta.
- Seafood paella or seafood platters.
- Creamy chicken or pork stews with rice.
Meals that pair well with sweet Chenin Blanc:
- Steak with blue cheese sauce and baked potatoes.
- Lightly spiced Asian dishes such as stir fry with julienne style vegetables.
- Savoury cheese soufflé.
- Cheese and pickle board for sharing.
- Any kind of cheese or chocolate based dessert.
FinGlobal: your cross-border financial experts
When moving to a foreign country, you will probably be delighted to find just how many South African wines have made it onto foreign liquor store shelves. It’s easy to understand of course. After all, South African wines are some of the best in the world. While enjoying a fine selection of wines from back home, don’t forget to pay some much-needed attention to your tax and financial emigration processing. Yes, wine is far more interesting than processes, systems and paperwork, but needs must!
At FinGlobal, we know all about the trials and tribulations of emigration. In fact, we have nearly a decade of experience helping South African expats across the globe get their financial and tax emigration issues sorted out. Whether you want to financially emigrate or need to find out more about getting your accrued SA retirement annuity funds out of the country, we are the team to talk to. For more information and advice, all you have to do is contact us. We are available via email or telephone – reach out to us today.