WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA)

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WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA)

Postby Paul B. » Mon Jul 31, 2006 11:45 pm

13.5% alc. Clear bright straw colour. Nondescript but clean white-wine nose (does Chenin have any overt varietal character, BTW?). Crisp, warm and slightly off-dry; a good table wine and well made, but not much else can be said about it. The label indicates that the fruit is from bush vines and trellised vines 15 years old and older. All the indications are there that this is an excellent small-production wine, but I just don't find much character in the variety. I think I actually prefer Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc when it comes to South African whites.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Bob Henrick » Tue Aug 01, 2006 9:42 am

Paul, first welcome back from your travels. I am not well versed in South African chenins, but have liked some from Ken Forrester. If you come to Mo'Cool you can pick one up in Ann Arbor. But for chenin I would recommend that you try the Loire. Vouvray seem to have more RS than say Savennieres, but both in even decent vintages are wonderful wines IMO. One does have to remember though that they are NEVER going to be the type of austere wines that you love.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Dan Smothergill » Tue Aug 01, 2006 10:55 am

(does Chenin have any overt varietal character, BTW?)

Yep, plenty. I love Loire Chenin and get a wonderful cheesey taste in some Vouvrays. In general I'm not very good at descriptors. Hope others will chime in and help.

I read lots about the renaissance in South African Chenins. Apparently they were overcropped and treated poorly for years, but those from the new generation that I've tried haven't been much to talk about. But then I try to stay below $15 or so.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Paul B. » Tue Aug 01, 2006 11:09 am

Bob Henrick wrote:Paul, first welcome back from your travels.

Thanks Bob! I will be glad to see you at MoCool again.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Paul B. » Tue Aug 01, 2006 11:11 am

Dan Smothergill wrote:I read lots about the renaissance in South African Chenins. Apparently they were overcropped and treated poorly for years, but those from the new generation that I've tried haven't been much to talk about. But then I try to stay below $15 or so.

It's true, Dan - I really have yet to try an interesting SA Chenin. The cheap KWV Chenin that used to be sold at the LCBO some 7 years ago or so was actually very nice and vervey; off-dry, but still it had lots of crispness and a pear-like aroma. But other than that, I think I prefer Sauvignon Blanc because at least it has an overt character. SA Chardonnays have been really nice too in my experience - even the woody ones strike that classic SA balance between opulent fruit and a deeply conservative structure.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA)

Postby Peter May » Tue Aug 01, 2006 12:56 pm

Raats 'Original' is his unoaked version and is a jolly good Chenin that I have used in several tastings. ButI wonder if you'd preferred it this time last year?

Chenin is made in a number of styles in SA. I like the crisp unoaked style for everyday drinking over the oaked heavier wines and two inexpensive ones I have been particularly impressed with recently are

Ken Forrester 'Hand Made' Chenin Blanc 2005 (£5.99/£3.99) with a screw cap closure was delightfully crisp and tangy with super greengage and citrus flavours.

Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2005 (£6.99/£4.66) was just stunning; clean and fresh at first with a slight oiliness, developing a seriously complex array of flavours in the mouth and a long lingering finish
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA)

Postby Paul B. » Tue Aug 01, 2006 1:02 pm

Thanks Peter - I hope that those will be available in Ontario. I'll definitely keep on trying them, as I'm sure there's a reason for why the grape has earned such favour in South African vineyards over the decades.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA)

Postby Peter May » Tue Aug 01, 2006 1:18 pm

Paul B. wrote: I'll definitely keep on trying them, as I'm sure there's a reason for why the grape has earned such favour in South African vineyards over the decades.


No need to keep trying a variety you don't care for.

There are thousands of varoeties out there and not enough time to drink them all. I do enjoy Chenin in all its forms, yes even oaked. But a nice chilled crisp dry unoaked Chenin is my drink of choice every lunchtime in the Cape after a morning tasting reds. I prefer Chenin to Chardonnay any day.

The reason there is a lot of Chenin in the Cape is historically more to do with that it grows well there, is good for making brandy (of which SA consumes a lot) and can make lots of inoffensive semi sweet wine (Steen) for the masses.

People such as Bruwer Raats, Ken Forrester, Martin Meinart, Jean Daneel, Irina von Holdt and Teddy Hall are showing just what the variety is capable of in SA.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA)

Postby Hoke » Tue Aug 01, 2006 2:18 pm

Rising in defense here, first of the Raats, then of South African Chenins, but mostly for Chenin Blanc itself.

Chenin is an incredible grape. It is incredible in its versatility (both in quality and style and geographic range, but versatile in terms of yield as well). It can be, and often is, bland, thin, acidic, but is also capable of being the most transcendent wine, whether sweet or semi-sweet, or bone dry. It also makes a wide range of sparkling wines too.

It can be decent, bland jug wine in its ephemeral form, or it is capable of living easily for 50---60---70 years....and going through the most amazing changes in the process.

The best Chenin usually shows a honeyed character overlaying an astonishing acidity, acidity that can screech when young, or when made from under ripe grapes or in bad years, but when it is balanced between fruit and acidity and sugars, it can have an enticing aroma of wet straw or hay---not moldy, mind you, but fresh wet hay, like walking through a field of grass and flowers after a spring rainfall!

But Chenin also can have a haunting, hard-to-describe character, sometimes like fresh melons, sometimes like a sweet/sour sauce, sometimes like tamarind. Sometimes it is more floral; sometimes the fruit dominates.

Chenin is variable, highly variable wherever it is grown. When it's overcropped, poorly farmed, and poorly handled, it can be bland, yes. But when care is shown, in the vineyard and the winery, it can be one of the most thrilling wine experiences. All that applies to South African Chenin as well, by the way.

Don't base your estimation of SA Chenin on the single example. Keep at it, Paul. Your epiphany will happen. :)
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA)

Postby Carl Eppig » Tue Aug 01, 2006 2:33 pm

Agree with what's been said. Vouvary is quintesential Chenin. Chenin is supposed be one of the things that the SAs are supposed to do well. We have had much more luck with their SB and Cab.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA)

Postby Paul B. » Tue Aug 01, 2006 2:36 pm

Hoke wrote:Don't base your estimation of SA Chenin on the single example. Keep at it, Paul. Your epiphany will happen. :)

Thanks Hoke. I really don't know this grape at all yet. I need to try some Loire versions too and see what those are all about, though the very status of Chenin as the most popular white in SA makes me want to explore it that much more, especially now that we've got real African heat in these parts.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA)

Postby John S » Tue Aug 01, 2006 3:11 pm

I agree sauvignon blanc has a much more recognizable and exhuberent character. Loire chenins can have close to that amount of character at first, but as many have already said in this thread, they can also age far far longer than SB, and turn into the most amazing creatures after 10 or 20 or 30 or more years. Even the best SB would usually die far before their tenth year.

The steen mentality is still the main modus operendi in SA. I visited SA a couple of years ago, and was really hoping to find some world class examples. I did find 2 or 3, but that was after tasting about 50 examples which were usually pleasant, but not more than table wine. Sounds like that's what you found in the Raats wine as well.

Forrester's top end examples can be very good. The Kanu Kia Ora sweet version can also usually a standout (but it's not 100% chenin: some Harselevu is usually added). Of course, it's usually impossible to find the top examples in Canada: there just isn't a mass demand for chenin.

To me, no chenin region can match the haunting (though sometimes uneven) brilliance of Savennieres (usually a bone dry style) or Vouvray, for a richer, fruitier version of chenin. The best Saumur aren't too shabby either. Ontario gets Huet's vouvrays and Baumard's savennieres: don't hesitate to pick up anything from either producer.

For example, in Ontario right now you could get:

'LE HAUT-LIEU' VOUVRAY SEC 2004
France | Domaine Huet
VINTAGES 705764 | 750 mL | $ 23.95

DOMAINE HUET VOUVRAY LE HAUT-LIEU DEMI-SEC 2003
France | Domaine Huet
VINTAGES 937649 | 750 mL | $ 39.00

VOUVRAY LE HAUT-LIEU MOELLEUX 2003
France | Domaine Huet
VINTAGES 992636 | 750 mL | $ 43.00

(if any friend can be convinced to open a 2002 bottle from Huet, prepare to be blown away)

or:

99 QUARTS DE CHAUME (sweet)
France | Jean Baumard
VINTAGES 995357 | 375 mL | $ 32.00

DOMAINE DES BAUMARD CUVEE ANCIENNE DE JEAN BAUMARD (dry)
France | Jean Baumard
VINTAGES 673327 | 750 mL | $ 33.00

The cuvee ancienne is interesting, as it's a blend of older and newer vintages, so is ready to drink now. It's not a top bottling, but it's very nce.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA)

Postby Paul B. » Tue Aug 01, 2006 3:20 pm

John, that is all very helpful. I am going to look for some of those on my next shopping trip.

Thanks.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Dan Smothergill » Tue Aug 01, 2006 4:46 pm

I said:
I'm not very good at descriptors. Hope others will chime in and help.


Hoke said:
The best Chenin usually shows a honeyed character overlaying an astonishing acidity, acidity that can screech when young, or when made from under ripe grapes or in bad years, but when it is balanced between fruit and acidity and sugars, it can have an enticing aroma of wet straw or hay---not moldy, mind you, but fresh wet hay, like walking through a field of grass and flowers after a spring rainfall!

But Chenin also can have a haunting, hard-to-describe character, sometimes like fresh melons, sometimes like a sweet/sour sauce, sometimes like tamarind. Sometimes it is more floral; sometimes the fruit dominates


Now them's some descriptors!
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Jenise » Tue Aug 01, 2006 4:51 pm

the type of austere wines that you love.

Interesting, Bob, the impression we get of other people's palates. I don't have the impression that what Paul likes is austerity. More like big and simple--and by simple I mean that blunt flavors trump nuance and delicacy. Not what I'd call austere, though.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Paul B. » Tue Aug 01, 2006 5:01 pm

Jenise, I'll put it another way: I love challenging, non-easy, non-easy-going wines with verve and an electrifying personality; wines with edges. I do love severity in my wines, and I see Pinotage as having been a largely "severe" kind of red. Now, having said that, I like simple and blunt if it's aromas we're talking about; a wine cannot be simple and blunt structurally - I absolutely can't stand blowsy, flabby, glycerolic, high-alcohol wines that fit such a description, for example.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby John S » Wed Aug 02, 2006 1:57 am

Paul B. wrote:I love challenging, non-easy, non-easy-going wines with verve and an electrifying personality; wines with edges. I do love severity in my wines, and I see Pinotage as having been a largely "severe" kind of red. ... I absolutely can't stand blowsy, flabby, glycerolic, high-alcohol wines that fit such a description, for example.
Paul, if you want a challenging, non-blousy, non-flabby, severe wine, and want to combine all those characteristics with the chenin grape, try a Savennieres. There are usually bone dry, complex, and have real 'soul'. The only one (besides the Baumard Cuvee Ancienne NV I noted earlier) available right now in Ontario is the 2002 Soucherie Clos des Perrieres Savennieres (about $24). I haven't tried it, but given the producer, vintage, and price, it sounds like it would be worth a punt.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Paul B. » Wed Aug 02, 2006 2:14 am

John S wrote:Paul, if you want a challenging, non-blousy, non-flabby, severe wine, and want to combine all those characteristics with the chenin grape, try a Savennieres.

Thanks again, John. It sounds to me that a Savennieres should provide just the "bingo moment" that I'm looking for.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Carl Eppig » Wed Aug 02, 2006 9:34 am

Savennieres is a wonderful choice Paul, but a couple of cautions. It has to have at least four or five years on it, so if you can't buy one with time on, plan on laying it down for a while. Secondly avoid '03 like the plague.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Rahsaan » Wed Aug 02, 2006 5:36 pm

Savennieres is a wonderful choice Paul, but a couple of cautions. It has to have at least four or five years on it, so if you can't buy one with time on, plan on laying it down for a while. Secondly avoid '03 like the plague.


Do you think? Yes many people like Savennières to age, but Paul is looking for wacky austerity and severe feelings, so he might like the young wines, or at least find them interesting and worth pursuing.

Also, while 03 is of course atypical, perhaps you're being a bit harsh? 03 seemed to be a bit less drought-driven in Anjou than further West, and some of the wines (the Coulée de Serrant for example) were quite elegant I think.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Bob Henrick » Wed Aug 02, 2006 5:49 pm

Paul, I think I have a couple bottles of 1996 Baumard savennieres in the cellar. I will try to remember to put one in with my Mo'Cool wines and we will taste it either at the picnic, or in the hotel. Your choice.
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Aug 02, 2006 8:27 pm

Bob Henrick wrote:Paul, I think I have a couple bottles of 1996 Baumard savennieres in the cellar. I will try to remember to put one in with my Mo'Cool wines and we will taste it either at the picnic, or in the hotel. Your choice.


I can just imagine you two guys getting together, will there be photos glugging away with the chenin??
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Bob Henrick » Wed Aug 02, 2006 9:45 pm

Bob, we (Paul and I) have been together before, glugging away! :)
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Re: WTN: 2004 Raats Family Wines "Original" Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region, SA

Postby Paul B. » Thu Aug 03, 2006 11:03 am

Bob Henrick wrote:Paul, I think I have a couple bottles of 1996 Baumard savennieres in the cellar. I will try to remember to put one in with my Mo'Cool wines

Sounds good, Bob! That Marsanne you had last year was an eye-opener, so I can imagine that this wine will certainly be interesting as well.
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