This afternoon winemaker Adam Mason (pictured above) of Mulderbosch winery close to Stellenbosch in the Western Cape province of South Africa demonstrated at the Corkbuss Wine Studio in New York that the Chenin Blanc grape is Riesling’s only serious competitor for the title of Best White Wine on Earth (the title of my current book from Stewart, Tabori & Chang). With his three single vineyard wines from the 2013 vintage – the first vintage for them and only his second at Mulderbosch! – he showed that in places far removed from the grape’s homeland in the Loire Valley it can give world class dry white wines. Because I will be reviewing the Mulderbosch wines in detail in my column in the ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’ on Sunday, August 31st I’m not describing them in detail here. However, I will come back after that column appears and adding an English translation of my comments for those readers who don’t read any German. Please be patient!
Like Riesling, Chenin Blanc can shine in a range of styles from bone-dry to honey-sweet, something that Chardonnay can’t do. Chardonnay is invariably dry, or slightly sweet and pretending to be dry. The one thing Chenin Blanc can’t do that Riesling can is wines in the dry, medium-dry and medium-sweet styles with significantly less than 12% alcoholic content. However, the two grapes have in common having to battle with the widespread perception that these are always more or less sweet wines, and the prejudice that if they’re dry, then they must be sour. In both cases these are at best major distortions of the truth, and at worst gross prejudices. Adam Mason is the new champion for Chenin Blanc and with his first delicious and expressive dry wines he’s already made a serious statement. We will be hearing more about him and soon! I write all this as a Riesling fan, but also as a realist who sees both the common ground and the differences between the two grapes. I can’t wait to taste the Mulderbosch 2014s!