Ken Forrester and the Chenin story

It’s no secret that I like LOVE wine, and being in Cape Town has recently opened up an entirely new world of wine to me; I’ve been slowly working my way through the local liquor store’s wine racks and going to lots of little wine-meets (wine tastings with lots of food and music). There are a lot of wines I’ve never heard of, a large array of South African wines you wouldn’t necessarily find in Europe, or at least not in regular stores, and a lot of them are pretty amazing – it’s all about smaller producers and hidden gems in my opinion, although some of the main-stream wines can knock your socks off too so don’t discount them.

I’ve spent a lot of time listening to people talk, finding out what the local wine lovers think of South African wines and trying out all their favourites. I’ve also been on my own journey – an exploration into food and wine pairings, something I’ve never been good at (except the red with red meat and white with fish bit – and even that, I’ve discovered, can be wrong). I’m starting to appreciate both red and white wines in an entirely new way, in particular the whites that we make here in Cape Town, of which there are several – and so begins the story of my discovery of THE Chenin Blanc.

Ken Forrester is  an internationally acclaimed wine maker whose specialty is the Chenin Blanc and this week I was invited to his restaurant, 96 Winery Road, to have lunch with the man himself (and to taste the wines, of course)! I’d been looking forward to this lunch for quite some time; I’d been invited about two months before, but hadn’t managed to make it out until the day I was due to leave Cape Town on July 10th. I just knew there was a reason that I absolutely had to squeeze this one in before I left.

Ken and his family make both red and white wines, and the reds are pretty damn good, although the estate is known best for the ‘trio of Chenins’ they produce here. The first is the ‘Petit’ Chenin, one of 5 wines in the ‘Petit’ range (others include a Sauv Blanc, Rose, Pinotage and Cab Sav) this easy drinking white is fresh, crisp  and fruity whilst being exceptionally easy on the palate, it would go well with just about anything in summer, and is definitely priced right at around R40.00  (although in the UK it’s around £9.50 and can be bought online, along with all his other wines, from Wines Direct). The second on the list is the middle-range chenin, the Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc; a full bodied chenin with lots of distinct  flavours, most notably the apple and smooth caramel. This is definitely an evening white and it’s full flavour would be well matched with spicy seafood dishes.

The third and final wine of the trio is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the chenin blancs, the FMC. Robert Parker gives this 93 points – if you don’t know wine, that’s one of the best scores around when it comes to white wines – and is the highest score ever given to a South African chenin. This is the most surprising wine I have ever had the pleasure of drinking, it comes down to this; the wine is white, yes, but the flavour is that of a full bodied red, confusing, I know, but bear with me on this one. On first taste, the apricot and vanilla are noticeable, but there is a sense of wonderment as each time you taste this wine, the flavours change and mix and come together in an unusually delightful sensory experience. I haven’t quite figured out how best to describe this wine, I’m a little lost for words. If you like wine as much as I do, BUY this wine. It’s got a hefty price tag so save it for a special occasion, it’ll set you back around R325.00 in South Africa, and £23.95 if you’re buying it online in the UK. If you happen to be in Cape Town then I strongly recommend you take a drive out to the estate and do the full wine tasting, there is no shortage of wonderful wines here as the reds are almost as good as the whites, and if you like dessert wine then you absolutely must try the T, Noble Late Harvest (made for, and named after, his wife Teresa).

Oh I almost forgot the restaurant – 96 Winery road is fabulous, try the Duck & Cherry pie, it’s the best dish on the menu and a favourite of the regulars; the sticky date pudding is also pretty fantastic.

Ken Forrester Wine | +27 (0) 21 855 2374 | |

96 Winery Road | Zandberg Farm, Winery Road, Off the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West  7599, South Africa – opposite the estate.

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