Category Archives: Chenin Blanc

Flagstone 2012 “Noon Gun” white blend

43% Chenin Blanc, 35% Sauvignon Blanc, 21% Viognier, 1% Nouvelle; 13.0% ABV
Wine of Origin Western Cape, South Africa
imported by Accolade Wines North America, Napa, CA
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store.  Still there.

This wine has interested me since it arrived a while ago, especially after the Rustenburg white was pretty tasty, but I am getting to it only now.  It’s also quite good.

It has a pleasant nose of yellow peach / pear and white pear / melon.  On the palate, the wine shows these flavors with some yellow and white floral character, some less ripe green lime, bitterness of citrus pith and grape skin that is close to a light minerality.  Anyway, if you liked the Rustenberg white, you’ll probably like this one, too.  For me, it’s a Thumbs Up.

My hesitation about this wine was that it would be too old.  The first day, I thought it was not showing its age at all, but the second day, it did show a tinge of oxidation.  Otherwise, however, it was still quite tasty the second day, with more forward yellow tropical fruit, still balanced with the same minerality and bitterness.

About the grape Nouvelle, this site had this to say:

Nouvelle – This grape, a crossing of Semillon and Crouchen Blanc (better known as Cape Riesling), was developed in South Africa by Professor CJ Orffer of Stellenbosch University. While plantings remain tiny they are increasing, mainly for inclusion in blends. It produces wines with a strong grassy, green peppery character.

The next day…


Chateau Julien 2014 “French Kiss” white

Chenin Blanc and Viognier; 13% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 20 May

ChateauJulien_2014_FrenchKissWhiteThe back label of this tasty-sounding blend describes it as “crisp.”  Alas, it is not so.  Instead, it is quite fruity and sweet.  While the flavors are typical and quite yummy — yellow honeysuckle, juicy white peach, fragrant white pear —  I found the whole thing a bit cloying, without enough balancing acid by a long shot.

Lion’s Lair Dreyer Family 2012 Family Reserve White

South Africa
50% Chenin Blanc, 13% Roussanne, 13% Grenache Blanc, 12% Clairette Blanche, 12% Verdelho; 12.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 21 December

LionsLair_2012_ResWhiteThe front label of this wine struck me as dull enough, but I was really excited by the blend listed on the back label.  However, a regular customer told me that he hadn’t liked it because it was too sour.  It was with his comment in mind that I opened it to cook with last night.  Although the fruit is nicely ripe (lemon, yellow pear and melon) and blended, it is also rather sour, with a taste tending toward spoiled.  I was considering Thumbs Down.

Today, the fruit is a little more forward and that almost-spoiled character has subsided somewhat, so that it’s actually reasonably tasty, if still on the sour side.  I guess it’s okay, but not really for me.

There’s an accompanying Lion’s Lair red, blended in a southern Rhone style.  If anyone’s tried it, please let us know what you thought about it.

Fable 2010 “Jackal Bird” white blend

54% Chenin Blanc, 17% Roussanne, 13% Grenache Blanc, 10% Chardonnay, 5% Viognier, 1% Clairette Blanc; 14.0% ABV
Wine of Origin Western Cape, South Africa
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 17 Sept

JackalBird_2010_FableThe blend in this wine looked very interesting and the low price sealed the deal.  It is indeed very good!

At first opening, the wine is a bit tightly wound, showing very elegant yellow and white fruit embedded in a minerally structure.  However, after a little bit being open, and especially as it warms from fridge temperature, the fruit comes out into a very nice blend showing flavors of yellow apple and melon, a little lemon, a little tropical yellow fruit (golden kiwi?), white melon / maybe pear, with a minerally finish.  It was at times a little disjoint, but it seems substantial enough that it might be better the next day.

That’s indeed the case, as the wine is much better integrated and more overtly delicious the second day, with the flavors very much the same and still showing some minerality on the finish.  Overall, a big Thumbs Up for this one.

Umbala 2012 Chenin Blanc

Wine of Origin, Western Cape, South Africa; 12.5% ABV
$2 at the Richmond, CA, store on 22 July

Umbala_2012_CheninBlanc_SAfrThis wine is medium in body and flavor, but very pleasant for the price.  It shows riper, yellow tropical and white melon fruit, not completely simple, with nicely balancing acid and a little bitterness of grape skin, and gentle texture and length to the taste.  For this price, Thumbs Up!

Next day, wine is only slightly less balanced overall, as the fruit is riper and heavier and the acid a little stronger.  However, this is a small quibble, as it’s still a lovely little quaffer, and very good for the low price.

Fort Simon 2012 Chenin Blanc

Stellenbosch, South Africa; 14.5% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 4 May

FortSimon_2012_CheninBlancI don’t drink a lot of Chenin Blanc, but this has to be the weirdest one I’ve ever tasted, and one of the stranger white wines I can recall.  The nose is ripe-fruity, musty / musky, and slightly sulfurous.  The palate tastes of over-ripe, if not slightly spoiled, tropical fruit: golden kiwi, star fruit (Carambola), maybe pineapple.  It’s not altogether terrible, but I really can’t recommend this for the price.

The next day, the rest of the bottle was a little better.  The weird musty / maybe sulfury, not-quite-jackfruit flavor was still there, but overall the wine seemed a little more fresh and it had developed clearer lemony acid.  Still, it is far from the perfumed white flowers, white pear, and yellow apple that I expect from my limited experience with Chenin Blanc.  Hmmm…  apparently, these tropical fruit flavors are more typical of South African Chenin Blancs, but I would still guess this is not the best example.  It’s not godawful, but I still wouldn’t recommend it.

2011 Mulderbosch Western Cape Chenin Blanc, South Africa $4.99

Silverdale, WA    13.5% alc.    (Purchased on 10/6/14)

The word Steen is noted on the front strip label…the name that South African’s give to Chenin Blanc (the most widely-planted variety in the country).  I’ve had a number of Mulderbosch wines over the last 20 years and their Sauvignon Blanc and Rose’ are some of my favorite South African wines.  So finding one in GO seemed a “for sure” buy to me.

IMG_1785Brilliant medium golden color.  Very fragrant nose that also shows wafts of sulfur that eventually blow off with swirling.  Then the aromas include white peach and lime.  In the mouth there’s some heat (that provides a slight burning sensation) and bitterness on the front of the palate and then the flavors show more white peach, grapefruit, grapefruit pith and bitter almond, pear and spicy light oak.  Has a Viognier like richness that I often perceive as flabbiness, though the acidity’s not bad.  The wine is more dry than not.

My preferred style of Chenin Blanc is more fruit and little or no oak.  Give me Vouvrays or the few WA state Chenins that are still out there.  Had I tasted this blind, I’d have likely guessed a dry Pinot Gris, as the pear flavors really come on strong in the finish.  So if that sounds enticing, give this a try.  One bottle was good for me, thanks.  Let me add that two days later with the one third full bottle sitting on the counter with only the screw cap back in place…it tasted much better.  It was mellower and the oak had faded more to the background.


Baja Tanga non-vintage sparkling rosé

Mendoza, Argentina; 12.5% ABV
apparently made from Malbec (red), Torrontés (white), and Chenin Blanc (white)
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 17 Oct; $13 online

BajaTangaAlthough this wine is slightly fruity for my taste, it’s pretty good for the price.  I thought it had nice flavors of ripe strawberries, medium-ripe cherries, with a hint of orange, brought forward with nice acid.  Although fruity, the flavors are nicely balanced and have a delicate aspect as well, and the carbonation is good and finely textured.

I found other tasting notes online that, although a little fancy for my taste, I think are pretty good: Aromas and flavors of earthy wild strawberry jam and sour cherry yogurt with crisp, fruity light-to-medium body and a very tangy cranberry sorbet, lime curd, and nougat accented finish. 

Three Bad Wines: Wakefield 2010 Pinot Noir ($6), Castlewood Grove 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($5), Gouws 2010 Chenin Blanc ($4)

As you may have guessed by the title, these wines did not inspire me to take careful notes or spend much time sipping and contemplating, so here’s some quick and dirty reviews.

Wakefield 2010 Pinot NoirWakefield 2010 Pinot Noir
Adelaide, AU; 14% ABV
Purchased 4/4/2013 at the San Pablo, CA store

This one isn’t truly horrible, but is perhaps the most disappointing since I had my hopes up somewhat. Tart, thin, very lean nose – not much varietal character – over-ripe. Sharp palate with harsh tannic bite, some fruit but in the darker jammy vein, very hot finish. Not an enjoyable wine. An hour and then a day of air did little to help it.

Castlewood Grove 2003 Cabernet SauvignonCastlewood Grove 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa, CA; 13.5% ABV
Purchased 4/4/2013 at the San Pablo, CA store

Ten-year old Napa Cab? Sure, why not? The first warning was the sponge cork – these things are just not suitable for aging wine at all – I hate em. Sure enough, the  nose is funky, full of mercaptans and other post-oxidation sulfide products (smells like sewer gas and skunk). The wine might have been decent at one time – there appears to be plenty of extract and ripe tannin and decent acidity, but the palate has a bilge-water quality. Bordering on undrinkable, one of  the worst GO wines I’ve had in a while.

Gouws 2010 Chenin BlancGouws 2010 Chenin Blanc
South Africa; 12.5% ABV
Purchased 4/1/2013 at the Berkeley, CA store

 Also known as Steen in South Africa, where it can make pleasant, usually off-dry to sweetish wines (a good dry Chenin Blanc is hard to find…fans can try Pine Ridge CB-Viognier, a dependably good wine; I recall Carmenet used to make a nice dry version before their turmoil – saw a lot of their wines at GO a few years ago but no CB). The Gouws is pretty bad: oxidized, no nose, flabby and over-sweet with stale, barely identifiable fruit flavors and a weird aftertaste. Don’t bother.

2011 Sea Ridge California Chenin Blanc $4.99

Silverdale, WA   12% alc.   (Purchased on 2/1/13)

IMG_0895Packaging (and some of the flavors) reminds me of the Trader Joe’s Green Fin white that I bought a number of bottles of a few years ago for a dollar less.  Very possibly made by the same people (Bronco Wine Company).

Clear pale golden; fairly aromatic nose of white peach, lime and very faint hyacinth; seems rather viscous on the front of the tongue, but pleasant acidity rounds it out at mid-palate.  Flavors of peach, nectarine and lemon/lime.  Medium dry and likely a good match with Pacific Rim cuisine (as noted on the back label).  Went quite well with the vegetable and seafood tempura that we had for dinner tonight.  Likely a fine summer quaffer and a decent party white too.  Flavorful and reasonably well-made, but very simple and doesn’t seem like a screaming deal at five bucks.  If it’s still around for the spring sale, it would be worth a couple of bottles for a dollar less.  Borderline between thumbs up and drinkable…I’ll go with the latter, but check with me later.

I’ve yet to find a domestically produced Chenin that compares favorably to a number of the French Vouvrays (same grape) that I’ve had—and I’ve had a number of WA state Chenin Blancs over the years.  Chenin Blanc seems to be another “hard sell” variety in the US.