South African Chenin Blanc: White Wines for Starters
Many of the New World (non-European) Chenin Blanc wines tend to be on the fruity side, making them pair better with salads and lighter main courses. However, there are a few that tend to be more “Old World” and move toward a dry character.
There are quite a few notable South African Chenin Blanc selections coming on the market now that are not only reasonably priced, but they also tend to be surprisingly elegant. With these you can expect a fruitiness that ranges from melon to pear to citrus, depending on the brand.
Some tend to be totally dry while others will to include a trace of sweetness. However, most have a nicely balanced acidic base that will finish a little peppery.
One the drier side, “The River’s End”, produced by Steller Winery in South Africa is quite devoid of sweetness. Although there is a lot of fruit on the bouquet, it finishes cleanly and softly, making it the perfect choice with cheese (particularly Canadian Cheddar) and cracker appetizers.
For a little more of a fruity character, try Spier or Mulderbosch. Note that most of these South African wines are skillfully crafted to keep things going right through a big round of appetizers. They also work quite well with Sushi, Tapas, or even Chili Poppers!
Although Sauvignon Blanc is still the champ for lighter seafood appetizers, like Shrimp Cocktail, the South African Chenin Blancs work quite well with a more diverse mix of “starter assortments”. This is also a great solution if you are looking for a change of pace from Chardonnay or Viognier.
You can find quite a few choices of Chenin Blanc wines at (Total Wine). They have continued to add the South Africans to their “Winery Direct” program. So, if you have a large gathering who would be up for comparisons between brands, you can get the job done elegantly for less than $14/bottle.
Most of the Chenin Blanc wines work quite well really if served really cold. But they do tend to open up quite well after 5-10 minutes, and will stay interesting right along with a very leisurely appetizer course.