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Is Chenin Blanc the new Sauvignon Blanc? Earlier this month, Vogue magazine’s online edition published an article suggesting that Chenin Blanc may be just the wine for those tired of oaky Chardonnays and grassy Sauvignon Blancs. Todd Plummer, who penned the piece, calls Chenin the rising star in the white wine world and “a near-foolproof crowd-pleaser”.
What Plummer is referring to is the characteristics of Chenin Blanc that places it as a wine somewhere between the more acidic Savvy and the sometimes buttery Chard: Chenins have enough body to appeal to Chardonnay drinkers and enough freshness and aromatic generosity to make Sauvignon Blanc fans happy. Furthermore, the combination of tropical and stone fruit flavours, medium body and balanced alcohol and acidity makes this the go-to wine for foodies looking for the perfect pairing for their à la “Chef’s Table” creation. Its sweet-tangy tension enables it to pair well with anything from spicy Asian dishes to sushi with salty soy and peppery wasabi to sweeter Malay curries and even pork belly and sticky ribs.
Chenin Blanc is not only one of the very first wine grape varieties ever planted in South Africa, but it still is the most planted variety. In the 1960s, the semi-sweet Lieberstein (once the world’s largest-selling bottled wine) was made from Chenin Blanc and Clairette Blanche grapes. Chenin is a grape much appreciated by winemakers for its extreme versatility. It enjoys the rare distinction of yielding a broad spectrum of compelling styles and can produce delicious examples of both dry and sweet, wooded or unwooded, sparkling and still and is even used as a base wine for distillation in the making of brandy.
So if one is new to Chenin, what can one expect? The dry to off-dry, fruity and unwooded examples can be floral or herbal on the nose with orange blossom or fynbos aromas, as well as delicate mineral hints of slate and flint. Bright, fruit-forward aromas and flavours can range from tart Granny Smith apple, green plum to more robust notes of ripe stone or tropical fruit, framed by refreshing acidity. Respected producers and brands in this vein are Bruwer Raats, Ken Forrester and Leeuwenkuil.
Oaked Chenins exhibit woody or nutty characteristics, including notes of sweet spices, vanilla and a ripe fruit core. The wood component complements the wine’s minerality, especially when that’s expressed as flint or slate. Chenin doesn’t like a lot of new wood, however, so these wines tend to be mostly fermented in neutral (used) barriques or larger barrels. Chenins, particularly those which have had oak fermentation and maturation, can age and develop fantastic complexity. With time, the components of the wine mellow and integrate, resulting in a smooth, nuanced wine that’s best consumed three or more years after release. Try Beaumont, Spier and Kleine Zalze as trusted examples.
Prices range from very affordable youthful, unoaked versions for under R40 to ultrapremium wines that have the weight and depth (and the price tag) of “serious whites” – think DeMorgenzon and Mullineux. So whether or not you are a staunch Sauvignon supporter or a Chardonnay convert, Chenin is deserving of much wider recognition and there is bound to be more than one out there that will delight your palate, so give it a go and expect to be enchanted.
CityLife wine writer Ginette de Fleuriot is a Cape Wine Master.
Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection 2016 If you enjoy your Chenins full-fruited but without the creamy richness of oak, then this one is for you. Famed for their Chenin Blancs, Kleine Zalze produces three in varying styles. Their Cellar Selection Chenin is unwooded and the grapes are from bush vines, which promises great concentration of flavour. Aromas of pineapple are followed by a ripe and fruity palate, beautifully balanced by lemon-lime freshness on the finish. Flinty mineral notes linger and suggest that this delicious wine will mature gracefully over the next three to five years. Enjoy with Arancini di Riso (filled rice balls, deep-fried), a Gruyère and Parmesan cheese soufflé or with grilled kingklip and mango-avo salsa. Available at grocers and city wine specialist stores for around R55.
Wine is bottled poetry. These words of wisdom penned by Robert Louis Stevenson in the late 19th century are surely as inspiring today as they were then. In fact, wine and poetry have long enjoyed a happy relationship, with wine serving as many a poet’s muse since time immemorial. Persian philosopher, astronomer and poet Omar Khayyam (1048 – 1131) dedicated many verses to the charms of the fermented grape and extolled the virtues of wine as a life force to be enjoyed “before we too into the dust descend”.
One of Cape Town’s oldest neighbourhoods is also one of its trendiest, and home to a flourishing art and design scene.
Woodstock has undergone major changes from a seaside fishing town with its own beach in the 1800s to a mixed-race, working class industrial neighbourhood that survived the forced removals of apartheid, to one of the city’s hippest spots for food, fashion, art and design. The area offers a unique blend of community life and inner city living with corner cafes and second-hand furniture shops alongside pockets of hipsterdom. World-renowned restaurants, artisanal coffee shops, street art, design studios and art galleries are scattered throughout the area – many in revamped buildings now repurposed after the decline of the area’s once-thriving textile industry.
Stardust Situated in a heritage building that was once a bank, Stardust offers theatrical dining at its finest and serves as a launchpad for many an aspiring singer’s career. Singing waiters and quirky design elements, such as an upside down piano hanging from the roof, add to the occasion and furniture is reinforced to encourage patrons to dance on the tables.
La Bottega Tucked away in the Buchanan Square business park, this restaurant with its relaxed atmosphere serves casual Italian food, tapas and craft beer and offers a welcome respite from the buzz of activity (and traffic) on Sir Lowry Road below. Its comfortable, covered deck area is perfect for lounging.
The Kitchen This busy, energetic family-friendly café is famous for its delicious range of more than 20 salads, light lunches and great coffee. It’s a small room with limited seating, but attracts a dedicated following of locals and visitors from around the globe, most notably Michelle Obama.
Palms Centre and Market A decorator’s dream, this home improvement shopping centre offers exclusive furniture and décor, including fabrics, linen and upholstery, and is also home to the SMAC art gallery. The centre hosts a Saturday market from 09:00 to 14:00, with more than 40 food traders — free entry, free parking and occasional live music. You can also visit Riot upstairs for your fix of local craft beer.
The Animation School This award-winning, specialist animation training school offers a three-year fulltime diploma, producing creative talent to compete with the best in the field globally.
Sidestreet Studios A collection of three once-derelict buildings offering small, affordable studio space, free WiFi and shared office services for creatives. It also includes a residency programme for artists, providing them with accommodation (including a pinball machine) and studio space in exchange for selected pieces of artwork.
New Brighton Bakery Enjoy the aroma of fresh coffee and good eats at this hidden cafe, bearing Woodstock's former colonial name, with a relaxed atmosphere in the company of books, African art and plants.
Art Galleries As the heart of the city's design district there are a number of art galleries in the area promoting works by local, international, emerging and established artists. Don't miss: Goodman Gallery, Stevenson Gallery, Whatiftheworld, Artitis and Blank projects.
Bibliophilia A hidden gem, this quirky bookshop specialises in art, design and photography oriented collections of new and classic books.
Hollywood Costumes New on the block, Hollywood Costumes offers costumes and props for the film industry but is also geared to serve locals heading to their next fancy dress party. A wide range of costumes and party accessories are available for rent or for sale, and the shop also includes a specialist steampunk section.
Maker Station A space to make things, this building rents out space, tools and expertise to help DIY enthusiasts, hobbyists and designers with their projects. It includes a metal shop with welding and finishing tools, a small forge and foundry, as well as a woodworking shop and an engineering workshop.
The Bromwell A once seedy hotel, this restored pink building with a permanent doorman in bowler hat and waistcoat, offers a quirky, sophisticated selection of décor, furniture and art aimed at the fashion-conscious in search of a personalised boutique experience.
Woodstock Exchange Once an industrial space, this building is now a modern, creative hub and home to designer shops and creative services; artisanal coffee shops and eateries; the SAE Institute offering studies in animation, film making and sound production; as well as small business incubator the Bandwidth Barn. You can also start your GPS-based street art audio tour of Woodstock here using the Voicemap app for smartphones.
The Woodstock Foundry A former cast metal foundry, this building houses a small but eclectic mix of retail offerings that double up as studio and workshop spaces. With a small courtyard featuring cobblestones, bricks and plants, you can find high-end furniture, designer jewellery, a botanical florist, Tribe coffee, a hip hair salon or nachos and margaritas at the Fat Cactus. It’s also home to SmartArt, who specialise in converting any image into a striking, vinyl wallpaper creation at an affordable price.
The Beer Merchant These are your go-to guys for local craft beer (bottled or on tap), brewing equipment, beer-making courses and a tasting experience dubbed “College of Beer”. If you can’t find your favourite local (or international) brew at the local bottle store, in all likelihood you’ll need to look no further than Beer Merchant.
Woodstock Grill and Tap This speciality steakhouse not only offers a mouthwatering variety of free-range and grain-fed beef, sourced from farms around the country, but is also home to Woodstock Brewery – so you can pair your food with a beer that’s brewed as locally as it gets.
Salt Circle This trendy boutique shopping mall features quality craft and interior design shops, an eco-friendly furniture shop and a small book shop. Occasional food trucks pop up in the courtyard over the weekends.
Old Biscuit Mill The Old Biscuit Mill is a magnet for throngs of trendy locals and hungry tourists who descend on the bustling Neighbourgoods food market on Saturdays. It also includes local designer boutiques, antique shops, galleries and some of the best restaurants in the world, including the tapas-style Pot Luck Club with its glass windows and panoramic views of the city. The latest addition is the Virtual Reality Arcade offering immersive gaming and entertainment. Arriving by cab or public transport is recommended on Saturday mornings when parking is in short supply.
The East City, as it’s become known, is the area that links the former District Six and the historic, dense central city. It’s an area in flux as the city expands beyond its traditional urban core in response to the growing popularity of living and working in Cape Town.
A Zimbabwean hospitality franchise is capturing the imagination of locals and tourists alike, expanding the service offerings in the increasingly cosmopolitan Cape Town central city. Jimmy Jimalo’s is the brainchild of James MacAdams, a Zimbabwean by birth who has spent most of his adult life in the United States and South Africa.
February may be the month of love, but the realities of international events certainly did not leave many of us viewing the world with rose-tinted glasses. But let us indulge a little in the colour of romance and turn our thoughts and palates to pink wine. Rosé (as it is called) stems from the French word rose meaning pink. But how exactly is pink wine made?