BOWED HEAD Chenin Blanc 2008

Published: 14 Jan 10 by WINE MAGAZINE

Guala Closures Chenin Blanc Challenge 2010

Based on this year’s Guala Closures WINE magazine Chenin Blanc Challenge, it would appear that the top end of the Chenin Blanc category is finally undergoing the premiumisation that industry commentators have so long predicted.

In general, Chenin Blanc still sells at a discount relative to hugely fashionable Sauvignon Blanc: the average price of the 134 wines tasted in this year’s Challenge was R55 a bottle compared to R65 in the case of 226 examples of Sauvignon tasted for last year’s November issue. However, of the 11 examples rated 4 Stars or better, the average price was R102 a bottle, compared to R77 a bottle for the 39 Sauvignons in the same quality bracket.

It bears mentioning that all 11 wines to rate 4 Stars or better in this year’s competition had some kind of wood influence, the use of barrels for fermentation and maturation typically more expensive than making the wine in tank and done to achieve greater complexity. Thanks to these higher levels of quality, Chenin becomes more aspirational and hence more worthy of a price premium.

Put differently, what appears to be happening is top-end wooded Chenin starting to take on a price that is just high enough to make the buyer aware that he is treating himself without actually feeling real pain (overall winner and 5 Star-rated Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection 2008 at a mere R50 a bottle surely the exception that proves the rule).

When it comes to unwooded Chenin, there is still plenty of good everyday drinking to be had, but it should be noted that in the 15- year history of the competition, unwooded wines have only been judged outright winners twice, namely the L’Avenir 1997 in 1998 and the Mooiplaas Bush Vine 2008 last year.

There were 134 entries in total. These were tasted blind (with no indication of vintage, cellar treatment or technical analysis) by the five-person panel, scoring done according to the 20 point/5 Star system.

After this first round of judging was concluded, 16 wines were considered to have particular distinction and these went through to a second round where the panel could give them more detailed examination.

Once this round was completed, there was one wine that emerged as the outright winner on the basis of having the highest arithmetic average score, this being Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection 2008. It rated 5 Stars, improving on the 4 Stars it received in last year’s Challenge.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ five stars

Graham Beck Bowed Head 2008
Alc 13.23% RS 5.5g/l TA 6.8g/l pH 3.35
Golden yellow. The nose shows pronounced
honey and some toasty oak. The palate is
full and intensely flavoured showing dried
apricot, honey again and spice. Tangy acidity
lends freshness. Drink now or over the next
three years.
MF 18.5 CE 16.5 CF 15 MC 18 MN 17


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