On Saturday the 30th of November we held the 2021 L.A.S. Vino International Chenin Blanc Symposium + Sausage sizzle. We tasted the best chenin you can purchase in Australia from the 2019 vintage.
1. L.A.S. Vino
2. Tripe Iscariot
3. Marriwood Park
9. Faber Vineyards
11. John Kosovich
12. Swan Valley Wines
13. Brash Higgins, McLaren Vale
14. Sigurd. Clare Valley
15. Milton Vineyards
16. Little Frances Chenin Blanc Clarksburg, California
17.- Craven Chenin Blanc Karibib Vineyard Stellenbosch
18.- Rustenburg Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch
19.- Radford Dale Vinum Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch
20. -Domain Philippe Alliet Chinon Blanc
21.- Dominique Joseph Les Perruchets Saumur
22.- Les Errances Quand Fond la Neige Chenin Blanc
23.- Domaine Bobinet Poil de Lievre Chenin Blanc
24. -Amirault Anjou Blanc
Chenin blanc is one of those chameleon varieties that can be grown and made in several ways, meaning the resulting wines provide an array of options to drinkers. The trouble is that in Australia, chenin blanc isn’t on the radar for most people.
In its home of the Loire Valley in France, however, chenin blanc is a hero, and this high-acid grape turns up in all manner of wines – from juicy Cremant de Loire sparklings to food-friendly Vouvray whites. Further to being fizzy or still, chenin can also be dry, off-dry or sweet (the French are famous for their luscious dessert versions of the wine).
With the Australian wine industry largely founded on classic French styles, why is chenin blanc one that hasn’t made a mark? Well, it’s finicky for one. A bit of a homebody, chenin is particular about its environments, preferring mild climates. Parts of our warm country would be less than ideal.
That said on our soils, chenin does have a presence. Some of the best examples come from the west coast, where you’ll find mostly dry, fruity styles. Chenin blanc can produce aromatic, refreshing, versatile wines that are great with food. Its diversity – from crisp and mineral-driven to textural and fruit-forward, plus those bubbly and botrytis styles – keeps things interesting too. The next time you go to pick up a bottle of, say, chardonnay, why not consider chenin blanc? You might be pleasantly surprised.
L.A.S. Vino CBDB (Chenin Blanc Dynamic Blend) Organic/Biodynamic
Fruit from a certified organic vineyard in Yallingup was hand-picked twice 10 days apart and showed varied levels of ripeness through the vineyard and crop, chilled overnight and hand sorted prior to being lightly cold pressed as whole bunches over a few hours. The juice was left to naturally settle prior to racking and a wild fermention in french barriques for 14 months. Partial secondary fermentation with fortnightly lees stirring prior to being bottled with no fining and a light filtration. Soil: Gravelly Loam. Location: Yallingup Vine Age: 33 years
A cool season with higher than average rainfall resulted in a long ripening with intense aromatics, finer tannin and beautiful natural acidity. Hand-picked, destemmed and fermented as whole berries until dry. Gently basket- pressed to old French Oak barriques. Aged in oak for 9 months with fortnightly battonage, before blending, light fining and bottling. Soil: Gravel loam over granite. Vine Age: 26 years
Handpicked and de-stemmed to open-fermenter. Fermented on skin for 9 days and basket pressed straight to old barrels, where the wine finished primary fermentation. The wine was barrel aged for 9 months, during which the barrels underwent battonage every two weeks. The wine was then removed from barrel, clarified and bottled.
Soil: Sandy Loam over granitic clay
Vine Age: 35 years
Marriwood Park Chenin Blanc Organic/Biodynamic
The Marriwood park vineyard is certified biodynamic/organic with thirty year old dry grown vines on gravelly loam soils in Yallingup. In regards to vineyard management, a light pruning then the vines left to sprawl without training. The vineyard has a large amount of animals which coexist within the vineyard. No pesticides or herbicides used. Hand sorted and cold pressed as whole bunches the juice was left to naturally settle and then fermented using natural and cultured yeast in a combination of new french oak (20% new) and 1-2 year old barrels. The wine received a partial malo and lees stirring and rested for 10 months.
Soil: Gravelly Loam. Location: Yallingup
Dormilona Chenin Blanc Organic
From a certified organic vineyard in Willyabrup planted in 1994. Whole bunch pressed juice direct to barrel, wild fermented with cloudy juice. No MLF and 12 months in oak. No additions, fining or filtration. 12.5% alc
Soil: Heavy gravelly loam soils
Voyager Estate Chenin Blanc Organic
A cool, late season with below average January temperatures contributing to a two-week delay in harvest. Moderate weather was perfect for steady ripening, with slow sugar accumulation, flavour development and natural acidity retention. Challenges included bird pressure and untimely humidity, however our organically-farmed vines produced outstanding wines.
Fruit was harvested during the cool night conditions, delivered to the winery for immediate pressing to ensure aromatics were preserved. Once pressed, juice was settled, racked and innocluated for a cool fermentation. Once completed, the wine was left on yeast lees for six weeks with regular stirring to enhance texture prior to filtration and bottling in August 2019. Soil: Gravelly loam with a stony clay subsoil Specs: 14%, pH 3.25 TA 7.5g/l
Churchview Estate St Johns Wild Fermented Chenin Blanc Organic
Certified Organic Fruit. Selected rows and individual bunches of Chenin Blanc were hand harvested from the Western end of the vineyard. These bunches tended to be on the outer part of the vines where the fruit had a little more sun exposure. After a hand pick, a select number of “special” bunches are removed and returned to cool storage. These bunches will eventually be returned to the fermenting wine in the barrel. The balance of the fruit is pressed straight into a mixture of new French Oak Puncheons and 1 – 2 year old French Barriques. Without disclosing the exact method the fruit put aside were placed into the oak for extra skin contact during fermentation and maturation. This gives us that very special rich decadent mouth feel and adds depth and complexity to the wine. The juice is allowed to ferment naturally in barrel and matures on lees and skins for 10 months before assemblage and preparation for bottling. No fining agents and minimal filtration.
Windows Estate ‘Petit lot’ Chenin Blanc Organic
This wine comes from the first vines planted on the property in 1996. The soil consists of gravelly loam over clay and is naturally high in minerals. Planted with a North South orientation, the resultant fruit was shaded allowing for greater retention of mineral characters and natural acid. Handpicked at first light and chilled down prior to pressing. The grapes were whole bunch pressed with only the free run juice being retained and transferred to 3-year-old French oak barriques and clay for indigenous ferment and maturation on lees for 11 months.
John Kosovich Chenin Blanc
Fruit was all hand picked and sorted off our home vineyard from old vines dating back to 1962 plantings. The vines are all cane pruned. The soil type is sandy loam over clay and we use just a small amount of trickle irrigation during ripening to keep the vines in good check. The fruit was lightly pressed, cold settled for 48 hrs and cool fermented in stainless steel tank for approx 16 days. No oak treatment undertaken. Post fermentation the wine was left on fine yeast lees for 6 months then given a light bentonite fining and just a filtration on bottling day.
A riper style this vintage with alcohol at 13.5%
Corymbia Chenin Blanc Managed Organically
The fruit is dry grown, organically farmed by Rob and Genevieve Mann. The grapes were harvested by hand and whole bunch pressed before natural fermentation. A portion (30%) was fermented in seasoned French oak barriques. Both the barrels and stainless components were then aged on gross lees for 7 months prior to blending and bottling. pH 3.22 TA 6.47 Alc 12.5% Soil : Houghton Loam
Faber Vineyards Chenin Blanc
Faber vineyards was established in 1997 by John Griffiths and Jane Micallef. The vineyard is dry grown and planted in 1998 and again in 2016. John selected the land for its unique soil, shallow sandy gravel over a thick layer of hard but porous ironstone laterite and below a deep clay. The Chenin is dry grown and from a vineyard on Campersic Rd at the base of the Darling Scarp, about 2km from Faber. They are on very similar soil to us - shallow sandy gravel over a thick layer of hard but porous ironstone laterite and below a deep clay. Very simple winemaking, take only the free run, cold fermented and bottled early winter.
Vino Volta ‘Funky and Fearless’ Chenin Blanc Managed Organically
The premise for this wine is simple. Take the star variety of the region, sourced from a great old vineyard, ferment it simply and then bottle the end product. This preserves the bright fruit characters, the acidity, the structure with no added complexity. A moderate vintage in Swan Valley and turning out to be excellent for Chenin wine quality – one of the best.
Rockets Vineyard in Upper Swan East West Rows – Cane Pruned – Organic – Dry Farmed – 25+yo Vines – Swan Valley Loam. Whole bunch pressed to tank and transferred straight after to older oak (228L and 350L)Natural ferment and SO2 at around four weeks to prevent MLF and preserve maximum acidity. Lees stirred every month or so. Bottled after around 8 months.
Swan Valley Wines Chenin Blanc ‘Assemblage’ Managed Organically
Chenin blanc assumed to be planted in the early 1940s on a block used by Oscar Borghesi to produce sparkling wine for the Baskerville estate. Decomposed granite / laterite soils with a shallow topsoil over friable clay sub-soil. This block has been dry-grown throughout its life and would have originally been cultivated via horse and plough. The vineyard management would have been organic up to the later 1990s, when my parents sold the fruit to BRL Hardys (Houghton), who had mandatory spray requirements. We converted to uncertified organic management in 2015 and removed the remains of the old trellising. Similar to the Gingin clone of Chardonnay, fruit from this block displays a lot of millerandage and is probably related to some of the South African grape material, as the variety was brought to the Swan by the botanist Thomas Waters, who had returned to the Swan River Colony from South Africa.
A more ‘typical’ year than the cooler 2017 and 18 vintages. The aim for this wine was to craft on orange style with a little more elegance and tension than the 100% skin contact ‘skins’ we also produce. Approximately half of the wine was whole bunch pressed, settled and racked to either new French oak barriques or stainless steel for wild ferment, with the remainder fermented on skins in qvevri for seven to 14 days, prior to assemblage and further maturation in barriques.
Brash Higgins ‘CHN’ Chenin Blanc Blewitt Springs
The fifth Chenin Blanc at Brash Higgins, and we couldn’t be happier with the result. Handpicked from the white beach sands of the Blewitt Springs subregion of McLaren Vale, then fermented wild in barrel for 12 months. Blewitt Springs geology begins at the mouth of Maslin Beach and runs some 30km up to the foothills of the Adelaide Hills; essentially it is an ancient, 50 million year old dried up river estuary. The attempt here is to capture some of the brininess and marine fossils from the sandy, coastal soils, transporting you to the oceanside. The grapes are fermented wild in neutral French barriques for 12 months to achieve this effect. 2019 was a warm year, but we picked this before the heat to capture the fruits essential acidity.
Geology: North Maslin Sands over ironstone/clay Altitude: 250 metres above sea level Planted: 1997 on single cordon trellising Days on skins: 2 Fermenter type: White Burgundy Barrel Time in oak: 12 months
SIGURD Chenin Blanc Clare Valley, Managed Organically
Chenin Blanc (100%). Sourced from one of the most northern blocks in Clare Valley, this Chenin vineyard is around 57 years old which is practiced organically. It was picked around 11.5 baume and whole bunch pressed to 3 rd use Russian oak puncheons and small about was fermented on skins for 10 days as whole bunches. The fermentation took about 20 days to ferment on lees with full malolactic fermentation as well and left in oak for 7 months, racked from oak once and a small amount of sulfur added before bottling Soils: Red loam over deep clays, pretty cold nights up in Northern Clare, a creek runs through the bottom of the vineyard with the Chenin being about 100 metres away from it up the slope
2019 vintage: super dry start to the year, unrelenting heat throughout, we had quite a bit of sunburn on the fruit as the leaves gave up about 4 days before picking, picked early February around the 11th I think from memory, quite hot ferments as we had all up 3 weeks of above 35 so the shed never got cool.
2019 Milton Vineyards Chenin Blanc (NZ) Biodynamic/ Organic
The silt soils give fragrance while the occasional incidence of botrytis, generated by the autumnal mists from the Te Arai stream, give complex texture, body and a sense of sweetness to the wine. Over the years our determination to produce one of the world’s best wines from this variety is a seasonal challenge and a bottled fantasy. In 2018 we did four selections from the vineyard of hand harvested the grapes. On the crush pad the stems are discarded as these grapes give up their juice very easily during the long slow press cycle. The juice is collected together and allowed to settle for only a short time as we wish to keep the fine sediments, for it is here that all the nutrients lie which satisfy a well behaved fermentation. The fermentation and maturation take place in demi-muids (large 600 litre oak barrels) and stainless steel tanks. The wine matures in these vessels over time, and without the obtrusion of oak tannins, which would otherwise disrespect the subtle fruit aromas.
Little Frances Chenin Blanc Clarksburg, California
Chenin blanc is a historically significant Californian table wine - with plantings dating back over a hundred years. While it dipped in favour as chardonnay and cabernet replaced it, in recent years chenin blanc has enjoyed a resurgence of interest. In Clarksburg, a new generation of environmentally conscious vineyard managers are transforming the region, amping up the quality of farming in a traditionally driven by volume.
Harvested before the influence of botrytis and pressed after a few hours skin contact. Fermentation in barrel, with no temperature control, emphasises a natural richness and sweet stone fruit quality in the wine. Fermented with ambient yeast in neutral French Oak barrels. Aged in barrels with fine lees for six months. Complete malolactic. No fining, minimal sulphur, lightly filtered, vegan friendly
Craven Chenin Blanc Karibib Vineyard Stellenbosch
Mick and his wife Jeanine started Craven Wines in 2014, sourcing fruit from single vineyard sites in and around Stellenbosch and making “site-specific, honest wines”. Originally from Australia Mick met Jeanine whilst working in Sonoma, California, before both moving to South Africa in 2011. All fruit sourced now comes only from vineyards whose farmers are dedicated to working their land organically. Stellenbosch has an array of different sites and terroirs allowing Mick to “let the grapes do the talking…” Increasingly farmers are understanding the importance of cover crops and removing chemical treatments.The Chenin Blanc comes from the Polkadraai Hills area of Stellenbosch, planted on sand and granite which imparts a real inherent saltiness and freshness in white wines. Whole bunch pressed into neutral 500l barrels for fermentation and malolactic to take place. Lees aged for 4 months before racking. 9 months in barrel before bottling.
Rustenburg Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch
Grapes were hand harvested from 4 different bush vine blocks, 20 to 35 years old, in the Bottelary sub-region of Stellenbosch. This wine is a Rustenberg take on a varietal synonymous with South Africa. A warm snap in June and a wet Spring, coupled with a wetter than average Summer harvesting season made 2019 a challenge. Crushed, destemmed and pressed. Fermented in S/S tanks with both active dry wine yeast and wild fermentation. 2 months on lees. Alc 13.5% TA 6.6g/l pH 3.17 RS 2.8g/l
Radford Dale Vinum Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch
The gnarled old bush vines that produce this characterful Chenin Blanc are planted in some of the purest granite soils on the foothills of the magnificent Helderberg Mountain in Stellenbosch. The vines are mainly grown under dryland conditions, meaning they are not irrigated, and therefore their roots plunge metres into the granite subsoil in search of moisture. The altitude of the vineyards, the steep South-East facing slope and the proximity to False Bay mean that these vines are well exposed and cooled by winds that come off the ocean during the long, hot summer. These factors combine to produce a wonderfully fresh and vivacious expression of what is to us, the Cape’s greatest grape.
Grapes were picked by hand as well as manually sorted to ensure that we maintain the purity of varietal expression for which this wine has become known. Gentle de-stemming before equally gentle pressing in a pneumatic bag press were used and the extracted juice was settled in chilled stainless-steel tanks prior to alcoholic fermentation. This took place mainly in tank, on the lees, with about 40% of the must being transferred into Burgundian barrels for natural fermentation. There was also a small portion of skin contact. In combination these steps have resulted in the preservation of freshness, but also development of considerable fruit and aromatic intricacy in the wine alongside the mineral edge it so proudly displays. pH 3.4 TA 5.7g/l Alc 11.5% RS 2.2
Domain Philippe Alliet Chinon Blanc Organic
This beautiful chinon blanc is from a young vineyard, just 15 years old, and is planted on decomposed yellow limestone soil called Tuffeau. Hand harvested grapes, destemmed and put into concrete square vats to undergo alcoholic fermentation. Wine is matured in 500L French oak for 12 months.
Dominique Joseph Les Perruchets Saumur Organic
In the small circle of elite producers in the heartland of Saumur- Champigny in Varrains, the lively, friendly and talented Dominique Joseph is impossible to miss. Fully organically farmed since 1992, the Domaine grows 12 hectares of vineyard perfectly located over 55 different locations. The "Les Perruchets" is a single vineyard of 0.3 hectares, ideally located on heavy limestone soils with clay and rocks on top. The organic vineyards are harvested by hand and the grapes are destemmed to undergo their maceration in concrete vats for the blended cuvées and in an oak vat for “Les Poyeux”. A low yielding vineyard is always offering wines of great depth and complexity. Once the maceration or infusion is done, fermentation is completed with respect to the fruit.
Les Errances Quand Fond la Neige Organic
They founded Les Errances in 2018, after competing their winemaking studies and working with some of the region’s great producers. They now farm 6 ha of mixed varietals while buying small amounts of fruit from other organic producers.
They encourage diversity of plants and trees in and around the vines with a permaculture approach, whilst in the cellar they are as hands off as possible. All wines enjoy long elevage and are remarkably stable, with minimal sulphur added only when needed. Chenin blanc from the limestone soils of Rablay. Pressed straight to old barrels where the wine was on full solids for 11 months.
Domaine Bobinet Poil de Lievre Chenin Blanc Organic
The domaine is situated outside Saumur, in the village of Beaulieu. Most of the vines are within walking distance of the cellar, on the slopes of Saumur (in the Hauts de Dampierre), some are a little further, between Dampierre and Souzay. The terroir in Saumur is distinguished by the ubiquitous tuffeau, the soft, white limestone rock that was used to build the famous castles of the Loire Valley. The tuffeau’s distinctive characteristic is its ability to restore the water reserves to the vines’ roots, which are able to dig deep down due to the softness of the stone. As limestone has a basic PH, wines from vines anchored in this type of soil are characterised by a wonderful acidity. Wine whole bunch pressed, with full malolactic fermentation. Matured in barrel and concrete for 4-5 months.
Amirault Les Clos des Quarterons Anjou Blanc Organic/Biodynamic
Agnès and Xavier Amirault are the sixth generation of the Clos des Quarterons in Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, a village founded in the late 19th century. After more than 20 years in Canada and the US, Xavier took over from his older brother in 2011. In the same year, the domaine became certified as a biodynamic producer by Demeter. The remarkably fine and elegant quality of the wines is based on a wide range of more than 50 plots and 12 types of soils at five different altitudes. Each year Xavier produces 40 to 45 cuvées of which he blends a charismatic range of nearly a dozen terroir wines and Crémants from St Nicolas de Bourgueil, Bourgueil and Anjou.
From gravelly clay soils Hand harvested and hand sorted. Naturally fermented at low temperatures and matured for 9-12 months in 50% amphora and 50% barrique with regular lees stirring.
For those at the 2021 event below is a list of the wines included in each tasting bracket.
1. Faber Vineyards
2. Sigurd. Clare Valley
3. Rustenburg Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch
4. Marriwood Park
5. Domain Philippe Alliet Chinon Blanc
1. Dominique Joseph Les Perruchets Saumur
2. Tripe Iscariot Karridale
3. Brash Higgins, McLaren Vale
4. Radford Dale Vinum Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch
5. John Kosovich
1. Vino Volta
2. Milton Vineyards
4. Les Errances Quand Fond la Neige Chenin Blanc
3. Domaine Bobinet Poil de Lievre Chenin Blanc
4. Tripe Iscariot Wilyabrup
5. Swan Valley Wines
1. Amirault Anjou Blanc
2. Little Frances
3. L.A.S. Vino
4. Craven Chenin Blanc Karibib Vineyard Stellenbosch