In the land of the Wagenmakersvallei (Valley of the Wagonmakers), as our town of Wellington was first known in the 1700s, the word workhorse was familiar and it didn’t only apply literally to working horses – everyone worked tirelessly as they established the town.
One can only imagine how our forefathers faced adversity establishing their village in this remote valley, likely filled with equal amounts of hope, despair and prosperity.
They established the Wellington wine region with a spirit of togetherness and today our area is home to 80% of the vine nurseries that supply the South African wine industry with grafted, phylloxera-resistant rootstock. The legacy and influence of our Wellington ancestors extends far beyond our town, to the grapevines grown and fruit yielded for the production of modern wines across the winelands.
The humble yet tenacious spirit of their ways made me think of Chenin Blanc – the grape varietal that used to be known as the workhorse of the industry however in recent years been lauded for its quality as a single varietal South African wine.
This vigorous grower with high yields used to be popular mainly for large-production wines, as a component in blends or as a base for brandy distillation – it was known to be a hard-working and trustworthy varietal to work with, but went largely unheralded in the past.
It is a widely planted grape varietal around the world and South Africa accounts for most plantings at just over 17,000 hectares! Over the years winemakers have turned their attention to making Chenin Blanc that is worthy of serious consideration.
As a grape varietal, Chenin Blanc is nimble and what makes it admirable is its ability to acclimatise to a variety of conditions, deftly expressing a specific terroir.
The vines for our Wellington Wines’ range of Chenin Blancs thrive amongst the varying terroirs found within the valley, providing our winemakers with the luxury of a variety of flavour profiles to work with. The grapes also ripen early, allowing us to harvest before the intense heat of the valley impacts quality.
Our most prized possession, the venerable 40-year-old bush vines, has the most incredible view of the Limiet Mountain range and yearly provides smaller berries with intensely concentrated flavours and exceptional quality. These grapes, together with those harvested from younger vines, allow us to make Chenin Blancs that have a zippy acidity with notes of citrus, and a fruit-forward mouthfeel of ripe melon and apples.
It didn’t come easy, and it took centuries, but finally, the workhorse of wine grapes has its day of glory as the world celebrates Chenin Blanc day on 18 June. The #DrinkChenin movement celebrates this grape varietal as true royalty on this day and we hope that you prepare a feast – served up with Wellington Wines Chenin Blanc – worthy of the occasion!