Sourcing and creating The Francophile Chenin Blanc marked a departure for Rick who commissioned the making of this wine from a fantastic resource of old, bush vine Chenin, rather than liberating an existing parcel. It’s intended to be sustainable and repeatable; to be enjoyed copiously in the knowledge that it is not subject to the finite quantities imposed by The Liberator Episodes or Special Editions.
With Rick’s Francophile palate in mind, these parcels were selected from two growing sites, namely the Bottelary Hills and the Simonsberg mountains. In collaboration with his old mukker, Carl van der Merwe, they were fermented in stainless steel tanks to maintain freshness. Without recourse to any malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was aged on its lees, prior to being bottled.
Anyone who has ever had an audience with Rick will already be convinced that Chenin Blanc is, in fact, the world’s greatest grape variety. For the past 20-odd years, it’s been Rick’s Mission from God to preach this gospel to South Africa’s winemakers, to ensure they recognise the value of their old vine Chenin; a vinous resource just as precious as gold and diamonds are to the rest of the country.
For those commentators content to view South African Chenin Blanc as the primary source of industrial quantities of sub-standard supermarket promotional fodder, think again. This is no facile example; it’s a wine that is designed to demonstrate what can be achieved with a little bit of care and attention in both the vineyard and the cellar. It might well remain South Africa’s most widely planted grape variety, but it’s a fact that should be celebrated and not dismissed.
The Francophile Chenin Blanc is delicious on release, but could be expected to evolve and gain additional complexity over the next two to three years.