King Chenin Kens (Knows) the Wood from the Trees
Experience 4.5 Stellenbosch Wine 5.0

King Chenin Kens (Knows) the Wood from the Trees

KEN FORRESTER VINEYARDS
Wednesday 22 March 2017
http://www.kenforresterwines.com/

Experience: 4.5/5
Wines: 5/5

The 2016 Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc was my favourite white wine at the Stellenbosch PicknPay Wine Festival and so I was eager to visit Ken Forrester Vineyards. I wanted to see too if I could buy some Chenin Blanc for a Vertical Tasting – comparing the same wine of different vintages – at the April Society tasting evening.

North of Somerset West, just off the R44, and on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountains, I soon found the entrance gateway. I was full of expectation as I drove down the driveway lined with tall conifers. The vineyard and Tasting Room were nothing like I had expected. The vines were planted on flat land and not the slopes I had expected to see. I anticipated a large grand tasting room – as befits a grand, famous vineyard – and arrived to find a small cottage (not the one in the car park). Tasting tables with umbrellas were outdoors beside the low building with the cellar behind.

Nonetheless, I was happy to have arrived and introduced myself to my tasting host, Brent. Tasting was R60 for 6 wines and I explained I wanted to taste blind rather than select for myself from the tasting menu. Brent obliged and soon I had three glasses of white wine before me. I had to try not to over-think my tasting – knowing Ken Forrester’s reputation for award-winning Chenins Blanc – as I went through the tasting methodology that I had recently been taught by the Cape Wine Academy.

These were delicious wines: aromatic and fruity with subtropical notes of stone fruit, some with hints of caramel, others of warm citrus; rich and creamy; crisp, dry and with medium acidity; and with lingering finishes. I was enjoying myself. I was sure the first was a Chenin Blanc. It was lightly oaked (9 months in 20% new French oak barrels) to balance the light fruitiness perfectly.

The second glass was sumptuous too. It had a similar character but showed just a hint of being matured in oak barrels. But was it a Chenin Blanc also? The third white was my favourite and scored a 19 in my tasting assessment and a 9 for ‘likeability’. This too had a smooth creamy, rounded mouth feel that just lasted and lasted. Beautifully balanced, could this also be a Chenin Blanc? Or something else? It is rare to have all 3 wines for a tasting of the same variety.

Brent came over and poured me another glass of white wine. This was a ‘curveball’ he said before he was going to tell me what the first 3 wines were. I wondered if a blend. That seemed most likely as I could not pick it out. It was a straw yellow with hints of green in colour, as if a Sauvignon Blanc. The nose was moderately forward with sweet honey notes layered with peach, apricot and light raisin. This was too fruity and not herbaceous enough for a Sauvignon Blanc but it was the wrong colour for a Chenin Blanc. Perhaps the palate would assist me …. It tasted medium sweet to off-dry. It was not then a Sauvignon Blanc yet it had a crisp acidity. The fruitiness balanced the acidity and an average alcohol level. I was stumped. My guess was an unwooded blend of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc.

The time came to put me out of my misery. The first 3 whites were indeed Chenins Blanc. These were expensive wines. The first was the Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc that I so liked at the Stellenbosch Festival. The second and third wines, at R950 and R425 a bottle, were the Dirty Little Secret (unfiltered and unfined, hence the name) and The FMC from the Cellar Exclusives and Icon Ranges. Brent had looked after me proudly.

The mystery fourth glass, the ‘curveball’ was a single variety wine. It was a Roussane that I had barely heard of let alone ever tasted. Roussanne is a French Northern Rhone grape, often used in blending, and 0.06% of South African vine area. I had to buy this to add to my growing collection of rare and unusual grape varietals.

I rested and relaxed for a moment before asking Brent to bring me some red wines for tasting. I was enjoying myself. How interesting wine is and how much I have learned. How much more I have to learn too. I read more about the vineyard. The farm is one of the earliest in the area, dating back to 1689 and given by Simon van der Stel to Frederick Boot (later to become Botha and forefather to the family of South African Presidents). Ken Forrester acquired the farm in 1993 after it had fallen on hard times. The first vintage was produced in 1994 and grapes are now sourced from the cool Helderberg Region of Stellenbosch. Many of the vines are over 30 years old.

The red wines proved an equal challenge. I won’t go into fine detail for all. Suffice to say, the first wine set the pace for all in that it immediately puzzled. It was a red-red (as opposed to a blue-red) colour, medium ruby, in appearance. The aromas on the nose were foremost of red fruit (cranberry, red cherry) but with secondary notes of light cedar. Dry and fruity on the palate, it was high in tannin but with a light-bodied mouth feel. It could have been a cool climate Merlot but the high tannin and light-body ruled Merlot out. There was no spiciness for it to be a Shiraz or a Pinotage. Besides, it was light-bodied. The tannin was high but it had not the body or dark fruitiness of a Cabernet Sauvignon (or any other of the Bordeaux grapes). It was too deep in colour for a Pinot Noir ….

I went onto the second glass and that helped little either. I could see some colour gradation that suggested ageing but the clues were much the same. Brent came over and I told him my tasting dilemma. Sensibly, he did not reveal anything but said he would wait until I had tasted all.

By the third glass, I remembered Grenache. This was in the red fruit flavour family and darker in colour than a Pinot Noir. Perhaps the secondary notes showed a little spiciness? I felt I was on the right track but still unsure. The last glass had me sure that was a Grenache, bearing the same light fruitiness and medium tannin levels and intensity. I also recalled that Ken Forrester made good Rhone blends and I seemed vaguely to remember that Grenache too was grown in that region in France.

Brent had surprised again. These were all the same style – but of different ages! This was a vertical tasting, the first I had ever done. Grenache was a player in all but only as one component. The first two were different vintage of the Three Halves wines from the Cellar Exclusives limited availability range – three halves being greater than the sum of all parts. These combined Mourvèdre (earthy) with Grenache (fruity) and Shiraz (spicy). There was no wonder I could not pick out a single variety! I was smugly pleased that I had picked out the ageing though. I was interested to read that Grenache was the major varietal of the third wine, the Gypsy, as this was the glass that I became sure I could taste Grenache.

The tasting was one of the most interesting I had experienced. At the end I saw and tasted the Merlot which I immediately liked (not having to assess and analyse helped!) and decided to buy. Brent had judged my wish for blind tasting and information perfectly. The vineyard was not what I expected but the wines were magnificent. I sensed considerable care has been given to every bottle made to get the very best from each block of vines. Many of the wines were expensive (I didn’t taste any from the R45 Petit Range) and I could easily have bought more whites and reds.

Ken Forrester is one of my top 10 vineyards and I shall look out again, whether at a future festival or for a return visit. I never did manage to buy my 3 Chenins Blanc for vertical tasting in April so I shall have reason to return again soon!

Wines tasted (bought *):

White:

2016 Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc – R100
2015 Dirty Little Secret – R950
2015 The FMC – R425 FAVOURITE WINE
2013 Roussanne R195*

Red:

2011 Three Halves (48% Mourvèdre, 26% Grenache, 26% Shiraz) – R295
2007 Three Halves (48% Mourvèdre, 26% Grenache, 26% Shiraz) – R350
2012 The Gypsy (53% Grenache, 41% Syrah, 6% Mourvèdre) – R425
2012 Fijndraai Van Coller Family Reserve (45% Shiraz, 27.5% Grenache, 27.5% Durif) – R150
2013 Ken Forrester Merlot Reserve – R110

You Might Also Like

A Cape Wine Master-class

‘Out of the Office’ at Groot Constantia

Linga-ring in a Winery in Malawi

High Living on the Stoep Sipping Aged, Luscious Red Wines

1 Night, 7 Oaks, 3 Wine Tastings for Visit 2!

From Palette to Palate to Muratie

Barrels of Fun at My First Stellenbosch Street Soirée

In the Vineyard with Beyerskloof

Always a Favourite – Guaranteed to Delight

It’s all Art and Wine at Almenkerk

Eq-wine – Fine Wines and Fast Horses!

I-own-a Wine Farm!

Golden Wines at the End of the Rainbow

K-eynote W-ines at the V-ineyard

Real Wines in the Place of God

Where Eagles Care

Pastures Anew at Rustenberg

How Do You Grow a Vineyard Like Maria?

The Early Bird Catches the Wine

Malverne Dis-Clos-ed

Quality with Style in the Vineyard

Wines Made to Stand the Taste of Time

Excelsior Blends Quality with Price

Maiden Visit to Lord’s Bowled Me Over

Latching onto Superb Wines at De Grendel

Wine Passions Mounted at Cavalli

Magnifico – Grazie Mille Idiom!

Oh-MG at Anthonij Rupert

On Yonder Hill There Stands a Vineyard!

Grape Expectations are Met at Zevenwacht

Class in Glass at Glenelly

Putting Capelands on the Cape Winelands Map!

Water into Wine at Uitkyk

Wines to Love on Love Street

Kosie Wynes at Groenland

Delaire Graff Wines Sparkle

South over the Hills in Elgin

Back to the Future in the Berg of Paarl

Diemersdal has Six Appeal

Marching into France

The Garagiste in the Garage at Sonklip!

The Big Easy Tee’s Off in the Vineyard

Peter Puts into Hermanus

Grape Fun – Stomping Well Worth the Journey!

Red and White Wines with Frog’s ‘Legs’

The Terroir is Honoured in the Bottle at Springfield

Classic(al) to Barrique – De Morgenzon Hits all the Right Notes

A Hidden Gem of Rare Excellence

2017 Annual Cape Wine Lovers’ Society Awards

Warwick Wines Win their Colours

Neil’s Vines on the Tr-Ellis in Stellenbosch

Elgin Valley is the Cool Wine Tour

Simonsig Excellence Today with a Traditional Legacy

A Family Occasion – the Story behind the Bottle

Blaauwklippen was Good for a Friday

Pedigree Stud Grub at Cavalli

Hout Bay Vineyards – Simply the Best!

Grand Wines at the Big Top!

Fish (and other foods) with Wanda!

Lemberg Punches Above its Weight

The Phoenix Rises from the Terroir at Thelema

Nala Wines are Well Engineered in the Vineyard

Opening the Book at Elgin Vintners

A Myth, a Princess, History and Destruction, 2 Names and 4 Styles – Shiraz with Pizzazz

Idiom Wines Make a Statement

Lothian Left Me Breathless – and Not Only the Wines!

Two Dam Good!

Englishman Meets Mrs English at Classic Lanzerac

A Cracker and a Stormer at Paul Wallace

Bellville to Bellevue to Belle Wines

Clouds Reign in Stellenbosch

Well and Truly Oaked!

Rickety Tram Passengers at Rickety Bridge

Wines Out of the Barrel at Kanonkop

Kept Alone at Kaapzicht

This Vineyard Touched My Soul (aka, I Bought My First Bottle of Petrus)

Excellent Unstated Wines and Service – Naturally!

Sax ‘n’ Berg at the Vineyard

Virgin Whites Led Me into the Last Temptation

Swiss Family Sauvignons at Eikendal

Saxenburg Puts Heart, Mind and Soul into Its Wines

Pinotage Hits a Purple Patch in Paarl

Cork and Talk with Dave

A Sparkling Tasting at Charles Fox

Multi-Faceted Wines on Display at the Vineyard

Seven Reasons To Visit Seven Oaks Wines

The Bestbier Family produces Best Wines at Goede Hoop

Hermanus-sleepers-fontein!

Wonderful Grapes at the Vineyard Hotel

Masses of Fun and a little Chaos at the Ambeloui Harvest Festival

A Kleine Experience at Zalze

Mulderbosch didn’t quite Meet the Yardstick

Mooi Mooi Mooi Mooiplaas

Bracing Brakes on the Red Wines at Remhoogte

Perfection is Attainable at Boschkloof Wines

10 Comments

  1. Simonsig shows Excellence Today with Past Legacy and Tradition – Cape Wine Lovers Society

    […] to those that were judged. Not all disappoint of course – Groot Constantia, De Morgenzon and Ken Forrester come to mind – and Simonsig didn’t […]

  2. Simonsig Excellence Today with a Traditional Legacy – Cape Wine Lovers Society

    […] to those that were judged. Not all disappoint of course – Groot Constantia, De Morgenzon and Ken Forrester come to mind – and Simonsig didn’t […]

  3. Mutual Attraction – Cape Wine Lovers Society

    […] Cape Point Vineyards, Constantia Uitsig, Delheim, DeMorgenzon, Diemersdal, Glenelly, Ken Forrester, Morgenster, Oak Valley, Paul Cluver, Simonsig, and Steenberg – though did pass by to […]

  4. Reflections in a Wine-Glass ©: Blend Trends – Cape Wine Lovers Society

    […] biodynamic, unfiltered and unfined wines. Think of Waverley Hills, Silvermist, Waterkloof and Ken Forrester. Here, the drinker seeks to be closer to the original grape, as harvested in the […]

  5. Where Eagles Care – Cape Wine Lovers Society

    […] uncommon to taste as a single variety wine (Anura, Diemersdal and DeMorgenzon come to mind; Ken Forrester and Waverley Hills use in their Rhône Blends) but I have always enjoyed. The grape reminds me of a […]

  6. Swiss Family Sauvignons at Eikendal – Cape Wine Lovers Society

    […] Hill on the R44 towards Stellenbosch passed 2 estates where I had tasted at before: Avontuur and Ken Forrester. I headed instead to Eikendal Vineyards. Unusually, this was a wine farm that I knew nothing of nor […]

  7. Try as I Could I Did not Find Waterkloof Wines Dynamic – Cape Wine Lovers' Society

    […] open minded and without prejudice. Excellent wines at Waverly Hills, Silvermist, Springfield, Ken Forrester and other estates come to mind. I mentioned above the terroir rich wines from Ataraxia and De […]

  8. South over the Hills in Elgin – Cape Wine Lovers' Society

    […] ‘Ж’ symbol on the wine bottle label made me think of King Ken, the Chenin Blanc ‘king’ of Ken Forrester Vineyards. It wasn’t of course but the thought played in my mind. The letters come from vineyard owner […]

  9. Putting Capelands on the Cape Winelands Map! – Cape Wine Lovers' Society

    […] of the big name vineyards North towards Stellenbosch: boutique Yonder Hill, Chenin Blanc-specialist Ken Forrester, horsey Avontuur, and contemporary Cavalli. Think East to Sir Lowry’s Pass and you’ll think of […]

  10. Better than a Fair View Where the Goats do Roam! – Cape Wine Lovers' Society

    […] also as Durif. I had not tasted before as a single variety wine but only in Shiraz-led blends at Ken Forrester and De Morgenzon. The Rhône Valley cultivar is actually a cross between Peloursin and Syrah. Its […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *