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

Rickety Tram Passengers at Rickety Bridge

Exciting, Excellent Keermont

Perfection is Attainable at Boschkloof Wines

Individual Quality at Jordan

Super Surprises at Super Single Vineyards

Hazendal Fit for a Tsar, a Hare and a God of Wine

K-eynote W-ines at the V-ineyard

Morgenhof in the Morning

The Phoenix Rises from the Terroir at Thelema

Pinotage Hits a Purple Patch in Paarl

Grand Wines at the Big Top!

Same but Different End to the Diploma Lectures

Lemberg Punches Above its Weight

Com-fort-able Wines at Fort Simon

Latching onto Superb Wines at De Grendel

The Garagiste in the Garage at Sonklip!

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

Wine Passions Mounted at Cavalli

Where the Lions Roar in the Wild West of Bot Rivier

Grape Expectations are Met at Zevenwacht

Kept Alone at Kaapzicht

Diemersdal has Six Appeal

Mulderbosch didn’t quite Meet the Yardstick

Dornier Disappoints

New Branding for Old-enburg is Perfect

Swallowing Fine Wines at Paserene

Satisfaction in Getting My Ducks (and Wines) in a Row

Peter Puts into Hermanus

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

Idiom Wines Make a Statement

It’s all Art and Wine at Almenkerk

High Living on the Stoep Sipping Aged, Luscious Red Wines

Water into Wine at Uitkyk

The Ladies in Red

Always a Favourite – Guaranteed to Delight

Real Wines in the Place of God

Grape Fun – Stomping Well Worth the Journey!

Clouds Reign in Stellenbosch

Malverne Dis-Clos-ed

Wine Dinners are Not For Me

Waterf-ord More Ord-inary Than Extra-ord-inary

One Day, Three Tastings, Five Wines and Seven Sisters

Nala Wines are Well Engineered in the Vineyard

The Bestbier Family produces Best Wines at Goede Hoop

The Early Bird Catches the Wine

A Kleine Experience at Zalze

Marching into France

A Family Occasion – the Story behind the Bottle

Swiss Family Sauvignons at Eikendal

Wonderful Grapes at the Vineyard Hotel

Simple Spier

Virgin Whites Led Me into the Last Temptation

Quoin Rock Gently Roars at Knorhoek

Peace but No Rest for Rust en Vrede

Quality with Style in the Vineyard

Hermanus-sleepers-fontein!

Putting Capelands on the Cape Winelands Map!

Wines from the Orchards at Le Pommier

Blaauwklippen was Good for a Friday

From Palette to Palate to Muratie

High 5’s All Round for Pride without Arrogance

Hearty Food and Wine Brought by the Stork at Hartenberg

On Yonder Hill There Stands a Vineyard!

Golden Wines at the End of the Rainbow

Cork and Talk with Dave

Pastures Anew at Rustenberg

Bartinney Clings to the Mountain

Red and White Wines with Frog’s ‘Legs’

Lothian Left Me Breathless – and Not Only the Wines!

A Sparkling Tasting at Charles Fox

God Bless Slaley and All who Drink with Her

Wines to Love on Love Street

How Do You Grow a Vineyard Like Maria?

Red, Red (Spanish) Wine

Wines Out of the Barrel at Kanonkop

The Big Easy Tee’s Off in the Vineyard

Eksteen Experiments in the Lower Valley

Two Dam Good!

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

Excelsior Blends Quality with Price

I-own-a Wine Farm!

Pedigree Stud Grub at Cavalli

Magnifico – Grazie Mille Idiom!

Kosie Wynes at Groenland

Linga-ring in a Winery in Malawi

Seven Reasons To Visit Seven Oaks Wines

Idiom Puts on a Festival Master Class

In the Vineyard with Beyerskloof

Opening the Book at Elgin Vintners

2017 Annual Cape Wine Lovers’ Society Awards

Superb Views of Guardian Peak

Sax ‘n’ Berg at the Vineyard

Class in Glass at Glenelly

Neil’s Vines on the Tr-Ellis in Stellenbosch

Wines Merely to Lust After

Barrels of Fun at My First Stellenbosch Street Soirée

Where Eagles Care

A Hidden Gem of Rare Excellence

Delaire Graff Wines Sparkle

A Cape Wine Master-class

Back to the Future in the Berg of Paarl

Multi-Faceted Wines on Display at the Vineyard

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

Classy, Small and Precious Kleinood

Only One JC Le Roux Wine Sparkled and Scintilla-ted

Elgin Valley is the Cool Wine Tour

Excellent Unstated Wines and Service – Naturally!

Englishman Meets Mrs English at Classic Lanzerac

Well and Truly Oaked!

Peter Falke Didn’t Knock my Socks Off

South over the Hills in Elgin

Warwick Wines Win their Colours

Hout Bay Vineyards – Simply the Best!

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

Franschhoek’s Hidden Gem Is Reluctant to Reveal

Keermont Farmhouse Redefines Luxury

Superb De Trafford Worthy of Being My 200th Wine Estate

Bracing Brakes on the Red Wines at Remhoogte

Simonsig Excellence Today with a Traditional Legacy

Anysbos a Wine Estate to Look Out For

Laibach Shows its Spots

A Cracker and a Stormer at Paul Wallace

Ruddy Red and Blanc Sauvignons

‘Out of the Office’ at Groot Constantia

Oh-MG at Anthonij Rupert

Saxenburg Puts Heart, Mind and Soul into Its Wines

Fish (and other foods) with Wanda!

Wines Made to Stand the Taste of Time

Eq-wine – Fine Wines and Fast Horses!

Superb Whites in the Near Dark at Mont Blois

Bellville to Bellevue to Belle Wines

Sylvan Vale Wines Good for a Meeting or an Eating

Mooi Mooi Mooi Mooiplaas

All Green at Villiera

The Terroir is Honoured in the Bottle at Springfield

Maiden Visit to Lord’s Bowled Me Over

Syrah Pillars of Excellence at Haskell

11 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 […]

  11. Hazendal Fit for a Tsar, a Hare and a God of Wine – Cape Wine Lovers' Society

    […] Brent was my eager, polite and attentive host who remembered me from my tasting visit to Ken Forrester more than 2 years […]

Leave a Reply

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