WineHandpicked by IWSC

10 top South African Chenin Blanc wines

Still a bit of an underrated gem, South Africa’s most-planted grape variety, Chenin Blanc, shone bright at the IWSC

Words by IWSC Judges

Sunset over South African vineyard
Handpicked by IWSC

It may call the Anjou region in France its ‘true’ home, but there is more Chenin Blanc planted in South Africa than in the Loire, or indeed, anywhere else in the world. Among the grapes grown in the country, most people would argue it’s the signature variety, with around 19,000 hectares planted. 

It’s thought Chenin Blanc arrived in South Africa in the 17th century with Dutch settlers. Given the name Steen, the grape had a bit of a ‘workhorse’ image and was extensively used to create the base wines for Brandy, which was big business in the 20th century. It’s only really had its wine renaissance over the last 20 years or so. 

A versatile grape, Chenin ages incredibly well, and can be used to create wines spanning the whole gamut of bone dry to intensely sweet. Although there are relatively young vines in South Africa producing great fruit, the country boasts some of the world’s finest old vine examples, resulting in incredible depths of complexity and concentration. South Africa now has around four thousand hectares of vines officially classified as at least 35 years of age.

chenin blanc grapes
Chenin Blanc is South Africa's signature variety, with around 19,000 hectares planted

Home to the vast majority of the South African wine industry, the Western Cape is also – perhaps unsurprisingly – home to all the award-winning Chenin Blancs in the IWSC 2022. The outstanding Quest, Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2021 scored 96/100 points and a Gold medal. It displays the typical Chenin Blanc characteristics and expresses ‘a richly fruited and textured creamy complexity.’ The ‘invitingly full, mouthwatering’ Stellenbosch Vineyards, Credo Chenin Blanc 2021 also achieved the same impressive score, with its ‘textured and lavishly layered complexity.’ Close behind with 95 points and a Gold medal, Belle Rebelle Mariette Chenin Blanc 2020 has a ‘complex bouquet of aromas and flavours,’ and a zingy ‘sensation of crushed lime on the palate.’

Showcasing the variety of Chenin Blanc, Stellenrust B24 Chenin Blanc 2021 with its nostalgic aromas of ‘sticky butterscotch scooped onto barbecued pineapple,’ scored 94 points and a Silver medal. Other exciting bottles include Painted Wolf Wines Lycaon Chenin Blanc, which offers ‘a fresh and crisp style.’

Learn more about these fantastic bottles and other wonderful South African Chenin Blanc, all tasted blind by experts, in our selection of award-winners at this year’s IWSC.

chenin blanc old vines
South Africa boasts some of the world’s finest old vine Chenin Blanc, resulting in incredible depths of complexity and concentration

How do we judge these wines?

We run a tightly structured, rigorous wine tasting process. That means that each wine sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC wine judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the wine industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.

How do we score these wines?

Only the best wines sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, wines have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.

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