In our search for South African wines we have come across Ken Forrester.
We met in London at the Saatchi Museum at a tasting of wines by a company called Enotria.
I was immediately impressed by Ken’s commitment and passion. A sense of pride that was something I could really feel.
We have decided to keep two wines from his production – a Chenin Blanc and a Shiraz and Grenache blend.
Chenin Blanc is the most planted variety in South Africa and has been part of the wine industry since the Dutch East India Company arrived on the South African coast in the mid-1600s.
So pretty much right from the beginning.
The grape has history in the Anjou region of the Loire Valley in France back to the ninth century.
Its spiritual home is the Loire Valley but it has spread around the world, led by its ability to produce large crops.
This has probably been its downfall because large crops made tasteless wines.
It was, however, its cropping ability that made it so attractive to the Dutch East India Company.
They planted it not to make wine, but to provide fresh fruit for their sailors returning from the Southern Atlantic.
Winemaking was a secondary consideration.
Nowadays the modern wine industry understands the grape very well and especially Ken Forrester. He has vineyards containing very old plantings, it is these old vines that produce low volumes and very concentrated flavour.
Ken is very sure of the style of wine he wants and is determined not to produce run-of-the-mill stuff.
His Old Vine Reserve Chenin is brilliant with golden colours and full body.
Flavours include melon and baked apple but with extended lees contact (where the wine rests in the fermentation vessel after the fermentation has finished) layers of mineral notes and caramel flood through.
Yes it is that good!
His Shiraz Grenache blend is also outstanding.
Called Ken Forrester Renegade, Robert Parker rated this with 91 points in August 2011. Ken has gone for a rustic earthy style here which is fantastic with roasts, full flavoured Mediterranean dishes and vegetables.
The earthiness comes from the Grenache with the Shiraz giving spice and nutmeg nuances.
Nicely balanced this wine has soft integrated tannins.
Situated in Stellenbosch in the lee of the mighty Hedelburg mountain the Forrester vineyards are in a prime location.
The farm, called Scholtzenhof is one of the very oldest on the Cape.
In 1689, only 10 years after Stellenbosch was founded, the farm was formed.
In 1694 the then owner Frederick Botha planted the first vines.
In the early 1990s the farm had fallen on hard times and in 1993 the Forrester family bought the whole thing and set about restoring the buildings and vineyards.
Ken and his family have been at the forefront of the Chenin Blanc revival.
The whole thing makes a lovely story and I can’t wait to try more of his wines.
With the Chenin at £11.75 and the Renegade at £13, they don’t really break the bank either.
Published: April 30, 2013
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