When Kleine Zalze cellarmaster, Johan Joubert came across an article where an international judging panel criticises South African Chenins for being too commercial, and lacking fruit and complexity, he felt the need to set the record straight.
As the maker of some of the country’s finest chenins within the ‘rich and ripe’ and ‘fresh and fruity’ categories, Johan felt that he still had even more to offer in terms of crafting a wine with clean, pure Chenin fruit, lower alcohol and no botrytis or noticeable residual sugar to confuse the palate. With the support of Kleine Zalze’s MD and co-owner, Kobus Basson, he set out to follow his Chenin dream.
Johan’s biggest concern however is the ongoing threat facing South Africa’s old bush vine Chenin Blanc. Chenin might have a major presence in South Africa, representing 18,100ha of the country’s 101,000ha total plantings and 33% of its white grape vineyards, but Joubert warned that bush vines continue to be ripped out in favour of more productive vines.
Johan says, “It’s very important to make it financially viable for the producer by going for wines of higher quality and real personality that can go the extra mile for South Africa; that way we can definitely go up in terms of price points.”
To achieve this, Johan did a thorough analysis on the soil types currently available to him, to see if he could identify wines which offered the purity he was seeking. this was by no means an easy tasks and after 2 years of intense work and much experimentation, he identified three different soils – Granite, Oakleaf and Duplex – in three different and specific areas of Stellenbosch.
Intense canopy management of the bush vine vineyards was of the utmost importance to ensure that the fruit remained healthy throughout the growing season with no botrytis to confuse the fruit’s elegance and delicate purity.
The blood, sweat (and possible tears), clearly paid off. The 2012 Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Chenin Blanc, is a real treat! The wine is clean and fresh with a pleasant lingering aftertaste. It certainly reflects its origins and although the price tag is a tad expensive at R130 a bottle, the quality is unparalleled!
Besides the newly release Chenin Blanc, we also tried some of the other wines under the Kleine Zalze Family Reserve portfolio while indulging in the food phenomenal cuisine of multi award-winning chef Michael Broughton. If you enjoy a good Shiraz, I suggest you get your hands on the 2009 Family Reserve Shiraz, which recently secured 2nd place in the coveted Top Ten at the Syrah du Monde 2013. The wine is certainly a true expression of Johan’s passion and talent!