Patatsfontein 'Steen' Chenin Blanc, Montagu, South Africa 2017

Patatsfontein Chenin Blanc 2016.jpg
Patatsfontein Chenin Blanc 2016.jpg

Patatsfontein 'Steen' Chenin Blanc, Montagu, South Africa 2017


"The dwarf sees farther than the giant, when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" - Samuel Taylor Coleridge ('The Friend')

When you taste this wine, and you really, really must, because it's one of the finest South African Chenin Blancs we have ever tasted, you need to carefully allocate your praise, not heap it all on winemaker, Reenen Borman, even though he has done a great job, because it's a wine that can't be seen in isolation. It's just the latest chapter in the story of South African 'Old Vine' Chenin Blanc which began with Eben Sadie and has since been embraced by such luminaries as Chris and Andrea Mullineux, David and Nadia Sadie, Chris Alheit and a growing number of protagonists involved in a tale that is far from told. 

The Patatsfontein Chenin Blanc comes from a tiny vineyard in Montagu, 80 miles east of Stellenbosch, which used to produce sweet potatoes (hence the name*). It was discovered by Chris Alheit, who wanted to use the grapes as a component in his now-legendary 'Cartology' Chenin Blanc, but had to accept that the distance from his winery made it unworkable. The vineyard owner, encouraged by the interest of such a renowned winemaker in his vines, stopped selling his grapes to the co-op and engaged the services of three friends, who took the project on without blinking and you'll see why if you click on the link below.

When we say a tiny vineyard, we mean it. At just over half a hectare, these 32 year-old vines can never produce more than 1,600 bottles even in a bumper harvest, but what they do produce is exceptional. The aromas say everything that's great about old vine Cape Chenin. It slowly deals out quince, peach fuzz and Asian pear as well as white flowers, lime juice and crushed chalk, cooler aspects that tighten it up, focusing attention. Where it sets itself apart is in the seeming contradiction between opulence and restraint, controlling the alcohol at 13.5% and keeping the texture light and silky, despite the weight of fruit, so that it never feels cloying. You can drink it on its own, but it would be a shame not to see what alchemy occurs when pairing it with a myriad of different foods from Vietnamese to wiener schnitzel. Drink now-2026.

If you would like to watch a video of the vineyard-owner describing how the wine came to be, then please click here (it will open in a new window).

* Some of the world's great vineyards were formerly used for growing crops other than grapes e.g. Jayer's 'Cros Parantoux', which used to produce artichokes!

Press review:

Tim Atkin: “These 34-year-old vineyards are located at 560 metres and produce a remarkable Chenin Blanc from a little known wine region. Stony, fresh and bone dry, it’s sappy and dense, with notes of honey, fresh bread and citrus fruit. 2018-23.” 95 points

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