Stellenbosch, South Africa - Spier, a thriving working wine farm dating back to 1692, has once again showcased its expertise in the Chenin Blanc category, bringing home three gold medals from the first-ever 2023 Drinks Business Global Chenin Masters.
Judges sampled entries from eight countries in a competition that welcomed wines with at least 50% Chenin Blanc in their blend. Amidst this international array, Spier's wines distinguished themselves as leaders. The 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2020, Seaward Chenin Blanc 2022, and Good Natured Organic Chenin Blanc 2023 each secured gold medals, with scores ranging from 93-96 points. Additionally, the Spier Signature Chenin Blanc 2023 earned a well-deserved silver, tallying a score between 89-92 points.
The new competition from the Drinks Business heralds an exciting time for the white varietal to receive more deserved attention on the global stage. In recent years, South Africa has been recognised as one of the few countries producing fine wine Chenin, along with the Loire Valley in France and a handful of wineries in Australia.
But Chenin Blanc is not new to Spier. Archives indicate that the first vines planted on Spier in the 1700s were most likely 'Steen' - now known as Chenin Blanc. Today, Chenin Blanc is South Africa’s most widely planted variety, covering 18.5% of the national vineyard area and making up the majority of old vine plantings. Adored for its diversity in styles, capable of making anything from sparkling wines and lean, dry whites to sweet, golden nectars and brandy, it’s a veritable chameleon of the vineyard.
What elevates Spier’s results further is that they encompass a variety of price brackets and styles, reinforcing that great wine begins in the vineyard - an adage that rings very true for Spier.
With a multifaceted regenerative approach to farming, the Spier team acts as guardians of the land, working diligently to improve the soils for future generations. Take, for example, the story of the 21 Gables Chenin Blanc. Once a low-yielding vineyard destined for replanting, Cellar Master Johan Jordaan explains that Spier’s regenerative philosophy prompted him to think differently:
“Rather than uprooting an established 37-year-old parcel of vines, we worked to resurrect the vineyard to its former glory.” He lovingly refers to it as the ‘Lazarus’ vineyard, emphasising that “such vine maturity draws a beautiful and focused expression of terroir into the wine.”
Thanks to Chenin Blanc’s extensive depth in terms of vineyards, terroir diversity and winemaking expertise, the final offering depends on the initial intention of the winemaker. According to Spier’s Organic Winemaker, Tania Kleintjes, the winemaking process should involve as little interference as possible. “The less we fiddle with nature, the better the results.”
For Spier, when nature is in a good place, so is everything else. And when it comes to their Chenin Blanc, that place happens to be at the top of the podium.