Enotria’s Ken Forrester is featured in an article in this month’s Caterer written by Roger Jones of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. The double page feature, ‘Chenin Blanc comes of age’, illustrates how far this grape has come, with winemakers like Ken producing “world-class wines that punch well above their weight at a very attractive price.”
According to Roger, South Africa’s reputation was previously tarnished by a proliferation of cheap bulk wine, but modern winemakers are waking up to the potential of their Chenin Blanc vines, making wines that rival the greats of Loire’s Vouvray. In fact, the Chenin Blanc grape is becoming “a massive unique selling point for the Cape wine industry.”
For Roger, Ken Forrester’s quest to further our appreciation of this forgotten grape “has encouraged young winemakers to carry on the Chenin crusade.” His influence is such that Roger likes to refer to him as ‘Mr Chenin’.
Ken is a little more modest in his appraisal of his own influence, saying, “the real surge in quality Chenin Blanc in South Africa has come from the new generation of winemakers, who have come to realise the value of this fantastic grape in our complex and varied sites. With more than twice as much Chenin planted here as in the Loire, it’s hardly surprising such an awesome opportunity was taken up.”
He may have earned his stripes over the 20 years he’s been making top quality Chenin, but Ken knows when to turn to friends to pursue his dream. Fellow winemaker Martin Meinert co-produces one of Roger’s favourite Chenin’s, FMC (Forrester Meinert Chenin), a wine he has listed at The Harrow for the last 12 years.
Chenin’s variety of styles
One of the benefits of Chenin Blanc, Roger argues, is the variety of styles that can be made depending on winemaking techniques. For the restaurateur, these varied expressions can offer a wide range of flavours and textures to match with an array of recipes.
Roger compares lightly oaked Chenins to Burgundian Chardonnay, a style that is rich yet balanced by the region’s trademark acidity. He feels that these wines are a perfect match for spicy foods, highlighting Indian cuisine in particular. On the other hand, fresh, un-oaked styles work well with the delicate flavours of fish, especially ceviche, sushi and caviar.
Great value too
What really impresses Roger as a restaurateur is the bang these wines deliver for his buck. The Burgundian richness of an oaked Chenin can give the textual complexity that a dish requires, without the Burgundian price tag. The attractive price means that sommeliers and owners can easily list the wines by the glass, offering customers more choice and a greater overall dining experience.
To sum up, Roger says, “the gap in price between entry-level wines and fine wines in South Africa represents the smallest ratio of any wine-producing country in the world. As a result, it is possible to offer customers a great product as well as to make a workable profit.”
FMC Chenin Blanc 2012
To quote Roger: “This rich and full wine has lots of texture, underlined with a citrus freshness with notes of layered apricot, peach, honey, wax, toast and spice. It evolves beautifully in the mouth.”
Ken produces two other Chenin’s for Enotria:
Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc Reserve 2013
Full bodied and well rounded with a complex structure. Bursting with flavours of dried apricots, pineapple, vanilla and honey with a long satisfying finish.
Ken Forrester Petit Chenin 2013
A youthful fresh wine with quince and pear drop flavours. Real freshness on the palate with crunchy green apple and grapefruit flavours. Good mouthfeel and an appetisingly tangy finish.