A total of 124 wines were entered into the 3rd annual Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge, all of which were tasted blind by a five-person panel with no indication of vintage, cellar treatment or technical analysis. The panel of judges included Christian Eedes, one of South Africa’s most respected wine judges as chairperson of the judging panel; Jamie Goode from the United Kingdom, a London-based wine writer and currently wine columnist at UK national newspaper The Sunday Express; Higgo Jacobs, certified with the Court of Master Sommeliers and wine judge; Cathy van Zyl, Master of Wine, regular judge and associate editor of Platter’s South African Wine Guide, as well as wine writer and certified wine judge Samarie Smith and Tinashe Nyamudoka, sommelier at the well-known Test Kitchen, South Africa’s number one restaurant.

According to Eedes this was a good year for Chenin Blanc overall. “Chenin Blanc is such a complicated category to judge, because of the diversity of styles. And this year was no exception. The competition received entries with a wide diversity of styles – from clean and fresh fruit to oxidative ones – and they all worked. There really is a style for every consumer out there. This category seems to go from strength to strength. We could see and taste that there is a general confidence among South African winemakers when they are working with this grape and a real conviction of what they want to do with this grape. It was a really great year for Chenin”.

This year’s winning wines are:Chef-Mag-and-HM_Chenin-Blanc

Allée Bleue 2015
Price: R65
Total production: 7 500 bottles
93% Chenin Blanc, 7% Viognier from Franschhoek and Walker Bay vineyards. Matured in 400-litre French oak barrels, 20% new. Citrus and white peach plus a hint of vanilla. Pure and focused with bright acidity before a savoury finish.

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine 2015
Price: R160
Total production: 60 000 bottles
From Agter-Paarl, Bottelary and Durbanville vineyards, with an average age of 45 years. Matured for 12 months in French oak, 50% new. Stone fruit, spice as well as lots of yeasty complexity on the nose. Rich and broad on the palate, the finish long and savoury.

Boschendal Sommelier Selection 2015
Price: R85
Total production: 12 000 bottles
From old Agter Paarl, Bottelary and Somerset West vineyards. Largely unwooded, 15% fermented in oak. The nose shows a fynbos top note before pear, citrus, white peach and a hint of spice. Excellent fruit concentration and particularly bright acidity before a long and pithy finish.

DeMorgenzon Reserve 2015
Price: R225
Total production: 18 500 bottles
From Stellenbosch vines planted in 1972. Matured for 11 months in French oak, 25% new. Citrus, stone fruit and spice on the nose. Rich but impeccably balanced – possesses both depth and breadth, tangy acidity ensuring refreshment.

Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2015
Price: R160
Total production: 16 374 bottles
From three different wards of Stellenbosch, vineyards approximately 35 years in age. Matured for eight months in old 400-litre French oak barrels. A very attractive nose showing honeysuckle plus plenty of stone fruit and spice. The palate shows particular richness and intensity, the acidity nicely coated and the finish long and savoury.

Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Barrel Fermented 2015
Price: R80
Total production: 66 613 bottles
From Stellenbosch vineyards ranging from 25 to 40 years old. Matured for six months in old 400-litre French oak barrels. Flowers, pear, citrus and white peach plus a little spice on the nose. Lovely fruit purity and zesty acidity making for a very well-balanced wine.

Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Collection 2015
Price: R80
Total production: 6 000 bottles
From Voor-Paardeberg vineyards with an average age of 20 years. Matured in 500-litre French oak barrels, none new. A complex nose of potpourri, citrus and white peach plus an intriguing leesy note. The palate has a weightless intensity about it thanks to concentrated fruit and fresh acidity.

Perdeberg The Dry Land Collection Barrel Fermented 2015
Price: R77
Total production: 20 048 bottles
From two vineyards in the Agter Paarl area, one 26 years old and the other 32. Matured for 10 months in 500-litre French oak barrels, 20% new. A subtle but compelling nose showing flowers and dried herbs before pear, citrus and white peach. The palate shows great fruit purity and lovely freshness before an ultra-long finish.

Rijk’s Private Cellar Barrel Fermented 2013
Price: R140
Total production: 10 500 bottles
WO Tulbagh. Grapes from 17-year-old trellised vines and seven-year-old bush vines. 20% fermented in tank, 80% fermented and matured for 11 months in 300-litre French and Hungarian oak, 40% of which was new. Citrus and peach plus a little spice on the nose. Rich and full on the palate, the texture pleasantly oily with lively acidity lending balance.

Spier 21 Gables 2015
Price: R150
Total production: 32 808 bottles
From Tygerberg vineyards with an average age of 43 years. Matured for 14 months in a combination of 300-, 400-, 500- and 2 500-litre French oak barrels, 60% new. The nose shows citrus and peach plus a hint of vanilla and spice. The palate has a real succulence to the fruit and a pleasantly creamy texture while fresh acidity lends balance – a wine of precision.