Ken Forrester 2009 Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – Of all the chenins I tasted in South Africa (and I tasted a lot), this was the most exciting. Not in this exact form or vintage, but in the form of an older bottle pulled as an apology for their being out of the sought-after botrytized version from this same winery. The excitement came because in a few short years the wine had veered sharply in a Loire-ward direction, developing wax, quinine, and chalk notes that I hadn’t seen in anyone else’s chenins. Now, to be fair, I didn’t taste many more with any age whatsoever, but as the two dominant methods of chenin blanc production in the country are fresh-’n’-fruity-’n’-cheap or “seriously” oaked (a terrible idea, I might add, though Ken Forrester’s “FMC” version is the least offensive of the offensive lot), I certainly don’t expect to see it very often. That said, after I tasted and liked the aged version, I realized I hadn’t paid much attention to its younger form.
So here it is, and I’ve encountered it a lot since that visit to Stellenbosch. I wouldn’t say it’s clear that there’s a bright and complex future for the wine from its initial notions, but one can at least see how that future develops. There’s a restraint and subtlety to the wine not often found in the area’s chenin blancs (or white wines in general), a fine structure, and – I think this is where the key difference lies – a gravelly texture to the wine that I think heralds the organoleptic minerality to come. It’s very appealing in its youth, but I think youthful guzzling is what the same winery’s “Petit” bottling is for. Put this one away for a while. I think you won’t regret it, if past performance is any indicator. (8/11)