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The SA wine no one has heard of - why you should be drinking Grenache Blanc

We take a look at the rising star of the South African wine industry, and talk to two award winning Grenache Blanc winemakers.

by: Katy Rose | 24 Apr 2018
the rising star of the South African wine industry

Images: iStock

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Producing rich, full white wines with a well balanced minerality - Grenache Blanc appeals to the wine drinkers who previously were enjoying a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Two SA wines in particular are gaining a strong following - Platter’s White Wine of the Year 2018 The Foundry Grenache Blanc and 5 star rated Fides Grenache Blanc 2016 by Bosman Family Vineyards. We talked to their wine makers about their niche success. 

A niche varietal, with mass appeal
Plantings of Grenache Blanc in the Cape are very sparse indeed but that hasn’t stopped a few bold winemakers from coaxing from these small vineyards a tremendous punch of flavour. As SAWIS put it succinctly, “plantings in the Cape are minuscule”. Chris Williams, owner and winemaker at The Foundry, produces a mere 7000 bottles of his award winning single varietal bottling of Grenache Blanc. 

When we spoke to the team at Bosman Family Vineyards, Head of Wine and Viticulture Corlea Fourie told us, “Grenache Blanc is very much a niche varietal in our portfolio and makes up 2% of our production. In terms of wines that has made a impact- it has however-and it is seen to be an envelope pushing wine.”

Bush vine vineyards yield complex fruit profile
Chris explains to us his approach to viticulture of this little-known grape: “Well, at the end of the day it’s all about the flavour profile. When made from properly sited vines which are not over-cropped, Grenache offer fresh yet restrained aromas of citrus peel, pear drops, candied apple and a touch of baking spice. Bosman Family Vineyards let their Grenache Blanc grow loosely in bush vines, which the South African public has shown a love for in the more popular styles of bush vine Chenins. 

The challenges and rewards of being a wine pioneer
Innovation and boldness in South African wine making are often rewarded with success, and such as has been the case with Grenache Blanc. Being an industry trailblazer certainly comes with its challenges, but there are some benefits too - many wine drinkers are not too sure what to expect from a Grenache Blanc and this gives the winemaker a certain freedom to present a tasting of something completely new. 

"When people taste our wine for the first time they are surprised and delighted", says Corlea. “Luckily -most people don't have a preconceived idea of what it might be like -the enjoyment thus almost without reservations. The challenge is that instead of just being able to market the wine (with a certain reference in mind) it’s almost an educational exercise as well."

“If the starting point is telling authentic stories by your grapes, about a specific harvest, from a specific place-the table is set for consumers for an intimate experience with these wines.” 

Why we’re drinking Grenache Blanc
A dry, white wine made with care is a thing of beauty. Both The Fides and The Foundry GB show an elegance and sophistication, combined with supreme drinkability. Of course the long list of accolades only helps us on the way, with the Foundry wines earning a Platters 5 star award with their maiden vintage, and subsequently announced as White Wine of the Year for 2018. Owing to extended skin contact, The Bosman Fides is a wine that is moreish and elegant at the same time. 

Chris wraps it up nicely, summing up all the things we love about The Wine of the Year: This variety is all about mouthfeel- lovely fleshiness giving full mouthfeel, but kept lively by crisp acidity and a wonderful stony minerality. It has all the best parts of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in one single wine.

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