Bellingham’s The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc has been awarded a prestigious Top 10 accolade at this year’s Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge, following the announcement of the winners on Wednesday, 24 August. It marks the second time in three years that this wine has graced the winners’ podium at this competition, making it a remarkable achievement for the multi-award winning Franschhoek winery.
It has been a glittering year for The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2015, with a Top 100 and double platinum award at the 2016 National Wine Challenge (incorporating Top 100 SA Wines), and also receiving Grand Cru status for the best Chenin Blanc at this show. According to Niël Groenewald, Bellingham winemaker and brand manager, the 2015 vintage was characterised by prime growing conditions for Chenin Blanc, with mild weather throughout the ripening period making for perfectly balanced grapes.
These grapes originate from 3 bush vine vineyards with an average age of 45 years. These low-yielding old vines produce grapes with tremendous depth of flavour and complexity. Apart from meticulous vineyard management, this Chenin Blanc also enjoys a dedicated approach in the winery. “We follow a cellar within a cellar process, which means that the wine is made hands-on in small batches. Grapes are hand sorted and the wine crafted to perfection (Too blowsy and not really what you would say) in a way that respects the fruit, because this is truly exceptional fruit we get to work with” says Niël.
Niël adds that Chenin Blanc is a major focus at Bellingham, and that the vision behind The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc is to make a wine so consistently excellent that it not only earns critical plaudits and awards, but is also the most loved and talked about among consumers.
He describes the wine as captivating and inviting, with a luminescent gold colour and rich layers of fleshy peach, passion fruit, honey melon, papaya and pineapple aromas on the nose, as well as delicate oatmeal and crushed wheat derived from extended lees contact. These opulent flavours follow through powerfully on the palate, complemented by an integrated and subtle oak complexity. The finish is fresh and intense with tremendous length, making it a great wine for enjoyment with food.
Chenin Blanc is a variety with which South African producers are increasingly garnering much international acclaim, and according to Niël it is hardly surprizing given the calibre of some older vineyard sites like those used to produce The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc. “When you have vines capable of producing wines with such rare and compelling individualistic character, they deserve to be celebrated and treasured.”