Chenin Blanc led the field in the Inaugural Top SA Luxury White Taste Off, a dual Johannesburg and Cape Town blind tasting event which showcased the most expensive white wines in South Africa.
The iconic FMC (Forrester Meinert Chenin) maiden vintage 2000, however, trumped all other wines and, according to almost 70 tasters, was deemed to be in "total command and a clear winner across the board", says winemaker Ken Forrester.
The FMC is made predominantly from Ken Forrester’s prize vineyard, a 45 year old block of bush vine Chenin Blanc on his Helderberg property Scholtzenhof, first granted in 1689. The FMC has enjoyed a cult following since its inaugural vintage, garnering a consistent string of awards both locally and internationally; Ken attributes this success to various factors, among others a complex harvesting process, unique vinification techniques and importantly the heritage vineyard from which the wine is produced every year.
“Carefully managing an older vineyard is the key to quality,” explains Ken. “The yields are around three to four tons per hectare and each bunch is left with 16-18 leaves for ripening. The vineyard is picked a minimum of four times during harvest, with the help of the Normalised Density Vegetative Index (NDVI), a system where aerial photographs determine which pockets are similar in vegetation density allowing them to be picked alone ensuring overall optimal ripeness. Furthermore the property is located in a valley near False Bay, a mere six km from the Atlantic Ocean, enjoying ocean breezes and a moderate, cool climate.”
“The Chenin Project”
The collaboration between Ken and Martin Meinert is interesting. Their union on the FMC project can only be described as a moment of bifurcation; two entirely different approaches with one common goal - to take South African wine, specifically Chenin Blanc, to the very highest level.
Experiments with what they called “The Chenin Project” started as early as 1997, but it was only in the year 2000 that they realised they were onto a winner. The 2000 vintage made its debut at the Cape Independent Winemakers Guild Auction in 2001 where it tied as the most expensive white wine purchased on auction, at R160 per bottle. The first public offering of the 2001 FMC was released to market in 2002.
The “recipe” stays the same every year; hand selected, low yield Chenin Blanc grapes are harvested at full maturity in unique batches across a one month picking window. Natural wild yeast fermentation takes place in new and used 400 litre French barrels, and due to repetitive harvesting some botrytis is always present in the later pickings. The result is what Ken and Martin consider to be the pinnacle of the finest expression of Chenin Blanc – an icon, The FMC.
As Ken says, “the result of this important tasting shows that the The Chenin Project has come of age – apparently The FMC is South Africa’s best white wine, the tribe has spoken!”