In laws are in town for an extended visit and father in law is a traditionalist, to say the least, when it comes to wine pairing so even though Sockeye Salmon on the grill screams Pinot Noir to me I knew that we'd have to pour something white for "Grand Dad". In order to keep peace in the family I headed to the South African section of the Arbutus Village store while doing my Friday morning run around.
I headed to South Africa because I find South African Chenin Blanc, or Steen as the old timers call it, to be one of the best all purpose white wines in the market place. Chenin is a bit like Riesling in that it can be bone dry to uber sweet and almost anything in between and still produce quality wines. The South African take on Chenin generally accentuates the floral, fruity character but is still made dry, Chenin should exhibit honeysuckle (floral) notes as well as citrus, green apple and a mineral quality, if unoaked the wine will be clean, fresh and best drunk young while oaked Chenin will have a smoky character with more of the honeyed complexity and hints of cooked citrus, think marmalade. I will also admit that there's probably lots of really indifferent South African Chenin on the market so I generally avoid the real bottom end of the price points.
I decided to try something new and, based on my previous success with their Pinotage, selected The Wild Olive "Old Vines" Chenin Blanc 2011 from The Grape Grinders. The wine retails for $12.99 and has broad distribution, it's nicely packaged and is conveniently closed with a screw cap. In the glass the wine shows a pale yellow with green edge for colour and a slightly sweet floral nose, in the mouth it's more about green apple than citrus but there's a reasonable acidity and a medium to log finish.
The wine was paired with grilled Sockeye, which is rich and full flavoured and while in a perfect world I'd like a bit more acidity in reality for $12.99 the wine is very good value and would be a welcome addition to any summer barbecue featuring grilled fish or poultry. In my mind it's not as good an example of South African Chenin as the Spier Signature but the Wild Olive is a bit easier to find and a bit cheaper so it's a reasonable alternative.