Food & Wine Photo Credit: Miss Molly Hoity Toity

South Africa’s Cult Grape

Chenin Blanc reigns supreme in these parts.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been waxing on about Riesling, the king of white grapes, but if there’s any grape that can on occasion capture wine enthusiasts fanatical love like Riesling does, it’s Chenin Blanc. As expressed in the terroir of France’s Loire Valley (in the wines of Vouvray and Savienneire) the wine can be transformative and extremely age-worthy. The problem is we don’t see much of that over here and with some exceptions (Road 13 and Quail’s Gate in the Okanagan comes to mind) the grape generally produces ho-hum wines when grown in North America. But one place they worship Chenin is South Africa, where it’s often known as Steen. They produce vast amounts of it, most for everyday drinking, but plenty that gives a snapshot into Chenin’s calling card: firm acidity, with quince and crisp apple notes.

This new bottle from Moreson is a great example. The label calls it Chenin Blanc/Viognier blend, but there’s only 10% Viognier so what you’re getting here is almost all Chenin—crisp wine with a profile that skews a bit more tropical fruit than the traditional apple but delivers outstanding complexity for under $15. I hate calling something a “perfect summer wine” given that most of us invested in central heating a few generations ago and this wine would be great in November too, but…it’s sort of a perfect summer wine.

Miss Molly Hoity Toity Chenin Blanc Viognier 2012, $15

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