Defying Expectations: Radford Dale 2012 Chenin Blanc

Radford Dale’s 2012 Chenin Blanc
I am commonly asked what kind of wine I like by people I meet after they learn I work in the wine industry. I don’t mean to sound coy or flippant, but my answer is usually “good wine”. Sure I have my preferences, but why limit myself to geography or type when it comes to the vast diversity of wine? Case in point, this week’s staff tasting included a bottle of 2012 Chenin Blanc from Radford Dale (which on the label reads: The Renaissance of Chenin Blanc). This South African white bowled me over with a swath of rich, persistent fruit that while opulent never strayed too far due to the underlying acidity of the wine. Wow, I thought. How do you convince more people to try such a wine? Putting aside for the moment place and varietal, I am convinced that Chardonnay drinkers and admirers, would find much to appreciate and delight in with this full-flavored Chenin Blanc. It isn’t necessarily the die-hard Loire Valley Chenin Blanc devotee that will find this wine compelling but anyone who wants to experience a white wine with complex, balanced flavors delivered in a full bodied thrust of fruit. This is one luscious white.



The Radford Dale wines, which includes Vinum and Winery of Good Hope, are directly imported by The Wine House. Why would we, importers of French and Italian wines, bother to bring in wine all the way from South Africa? Because they are special wines. Radford Dale founded in 1998 by two friends, Alex Dale and Ben Radford, has steadily garnered recognition for their outstanding wines. It was only this past summer that Radford Dale’s Pinot Noir was handpicked by the King of Sweden to be served at his son’s wedding, Prince Carl Phillip. Quite an honor! Alex Dale is the public face of the winery and is making it his mission to elevate the perception of South African Chenin Blanc. Alex has sought out old bush vine Chenin Blanc, encouraging growers not to replace them with Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, because it is his belief that these old vines have the greatest potential in South Africa.


For the 2012 Chenin Blanc, the fruit comes from a single-vineyard of 50 year old bush vines that grow unirrigated along the foothills of the Helderberg Mountains. The vines face south across False Bay and the southern Atlantic Ocean. The soil type is called Clovelly which is a decomposed granite with patches of quartz. The old vines reach deep into the subsoils allowing them to withstand warmer temperatures. The wine is barrel aged for 10 months in mostly small and some large oak barrels, with less than 20% new.

I’d like to include a note from the winemaker for this wine instead of my own tasting note, because it accurately reflects my own perception of the wine and it is so well written, I’m sure I could not do any better. So here goes:
“The overriding characteristic given to this wine by its vines and its environment is its complex minerality and its persistent yet elegant intensity. Notes of lime pervade the quenching beam of acidity, penetrating and weaving through the ripe glycerol and lifting the gentle spice and biscuit flavours, carrying them on the citrus palate long after the wine is gone.”

Alex Dale

This past Thursday, The Wine House hosted an evening of Moroccan wine at Mourad featuring the wines of Ouled Thaleb. I had the good fortune of being able to attend and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed, not only the wine and the food, but most especially, the company. It was a privilege to spend time getting to know some of our customers just a little bit better in a festive environment while breaking bread. It was a great night and one we hope to repeat again soon. If you missed out on this event, but would like to know about future ones, please send us an email indicating your interest and we’ll be sure to let you know of any upcoming events. – Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Chenin Blanc, South Africa

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