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Spice Route Swartland Chenin Blanc 2023 £18.03
Spice Route Chenin Blanc
Charles Back was a pioneer in the Swartland when he started Spice Route in 1998. “Without [Charles]…the Swartland would still be regarded as a rural backwater” wrote Tim Atkin. Today, the region is the source of many of South Africa’s outstanding wines, yet Spice Route remains one of the best and most credible producers in the region, due largely to the fact that they own their vineyards. Spice Route’s 100 hectares of vineyards are situated in Malmesbury and Darling. The former, all bush trained on Malmesbury shale and red clay subsoils (the clay ensures the vineyards are dry-grown), give the Grenache and Mourvèdre the intensity of fruit that makes this region so exciting. Winemaker Charl du Plessis has been with Charles for 15 years and knows the region intimately. The winemaking is ‘hands-off’, as Charl is keen to capture the flavours and structure of the outstanding fruit he has grown.
This Chenin Blanc is from a vineyard planted in 1978 in the Swartland. The trellised vineyards are planted on a south-east facing slope and are dry farmed. The soils are predominantly koffieklip (decomposed granite and iron-rich clay) producing rich and concentrated wines.
The dry conditions throughout harvest ensured there was very little disease pressure. These dry conditions also led to drought, resulting in a smaller-than-usual crop, but this meant greater concentration and flavour in the grapes.
The grapes were picked at different maturity levels for this wine. The fruit was harvested by mid-February, with high sugar levels and some botrytis. Bunches were gently destemmed and pressed. After 48 hours settling, the portion that was picked earlier was all fermented in stainless steel tanks to preserve freshness and elegance. The late picked portion was fermented and matured in old French oak barrels for nine months before the two components were blended and bottled.
This wine has a lovely, bright light yellow colour. The nose is complex with tropical fruits and peach followed by flinty notes. The palate is rich and broad, reminiscent of the koffieklip soils, with well-balanced acidity from the first picking.
90 Points Decanter
Plenty of buttered white toast, leesy savoury depth and fruit strudel. Sensuous wine with layered caramelly fruit, ripe and seamless. Silky-smooth and stylish stuff.
Greg Sherwood - South African Chenin Blanc Panel tasting - March 23