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Thursday 21 March 2024

South Africa gets even more serious about chenin blanc

Chenin Blanc is the white grape variety most associated with South Africa - and it's about to get a boost.

A new initiative has been launched in South Africa to assess the premiumisation and value growth of chenin blanc, umbrella organisation South Africa Wine reports.

Chenin blanc (or steen as it is sometimes known) is the most planted wine grape variety in South Africa at 18.6% of wine grapes. The variety - originally from the Loire Valley - has a long history in the Cape as it was one of the first wine grapesintroduced to the region by Jan van Riebeek in the 1650s.

The new project is a collaboration between South Africa Wine, the South African Grape and Wine Research Institute (SAGWRI), Stellenbosch University, and the Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa (CBA).

It is led by Professor Melané Vivier and a group of academics. Five work streams are being introduced,  including market intelligence, the distinctiveness of chenin blancs in the country, production for profit, juice into wine, and the support systems needed.

As part of the project, a model chenin blanc vineyard planted with 19 different trellising systems has been created, generating scenarios ranging from very high to very low yields. Experimentation and analysis, production strategies and various approaches to winemaking will all be considered.

The relationship between Stellenbosch University and the wine industry has a long history dating back over 100 years. The first professor in viticulture at the institution, Professor Abraham Izak Perold, created pinotage in 1925.

Gerard Martin, research, development and innovation executive at South Africa Wine, said of the project: “South Africa Wine remains dedicated to driving progress and excellence within the South African wine landscape through proactive research and innovation.

“That is why we partnered with various stakeholders in this project to grow the value of chenin blanc.”

Chenin Blanc Association chairman and co-founder Ken Forrester (above) said: “This project underscores our longstanding belief in chenin’s adaptability, excellence, and potential to compete internationally.

“We are delighted to be a partner in advancing the research of South African chenin blanc and emphasise its significance in our industry.”

South Africa Wine came into existence last year and is a non-profit organisation mandated by the South African wine and brandy industry to "build resilience, foster transformation, and promote agility, and competitiveness".

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