Bellingham Wines, The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2010, Coastal Region, South Africa


Subtle in fragrance is the 2010 Bellingham Wines Bernard Serires Chenin Blanc.  Culled from 40 year old vines my glass offered a tease of apple and pineapple scent.  The gulp showed lush pinepple, citrusy lime, some hay and honey.  Also a sophisticated dusting of chalk garnished those flavours like icing sugar on nice dessert.  The flavour components are varied, but the wine does not seem scattered, merely wonderfully balanced and a delight to drink.

I had a discussion with the winemaker, Niel Groenewald, about the South African trend of turning abundant old growth Chenin Blanc plantings that had previously served to make less remarkable wines into wines that can become ambassadors for the region. We didn’t have much time to talk so I got right to the chase and talked about ageing potential.  I gave him an example of a Chablis that I had seen on sale at a very fair price that I declined to purchase a couple of days earlier simply because I did not want to cellar it and wait the required time for it to mature.  I asked him how you can tell your consumer that your wine is ready to drink now, but it is also cellar worthy.  He talked about his philosophy of making sure that when his wines are released to the market they are ready to be enjoyed, and he believes the customer who decides to cellar does so based on a greater than average wine knowledge and get the results he or she expects.  His passion and knowledge of wine and business made it a pleasure to soak up more information from.

Musical Match: Bringing a renaissance to the Chenin Blanc vineyards of South Africa, this Bernard Series Chenin Blanc from Bellingham can be compared to French composer Philippe Verdelot.  The connections are many, Verdelot was born in France – but rooted himself in Italy, Chenin Blanc started in France and travelled a bit further south, down to the southern tip of the African continent in this case.  This selected piece of music, Ultima Mei Sospiri sung by the King’ Singers has sharp voices and rounder voices balancing each other out wonderfully.  Sung in an early  form of a cappella I even hear sounds that could be echoed in the a cappella voices of South African Choirs, save for the slow tempo.  Put this 33 record on 45 and you may get something close the enchanting voices we hear singing from a country going through a renaissance of it’s own.  Cheers and enjoy.

PS… I might regret not keeping Philippe Verdelot to match and rhyme witha a Petit Verdot.  Oh well.

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