Man Vintners Chenin Blanc 2004
I do most of my tastings the modern way: directly in front of an Excel spreadsheet. While I
do risk spilling wine onto my keyboard I at least avoid the incomprehensible mess called my
handwriting. In addition to Excel coordinates calling for basic data like vintage, alcohol level,
and price, I have one special entry labeled “Maker Claims,” specifically those wine
characteristics promised by the producer on the back label. My own findings rarely jibe with
To quote the back label of this South African Chenin Blanc: “Lively aromas of tropical fruits and melon, with crisp, clean citrus and tropical fruit flavors.” I say yes, these makers are right on the money, hence the wine is certifiably “hype-free.” My nose immediately caught and distinguished melon, pineapple, peach, lime and mango with a touch of stone and a honeysuckle floral aspect. On the palate the fruit notes echoed and the stone moved into a certain satisfying flintiness, leading me to give my imprimatur to another of the maker's back label statements: “Also excellent as an aperitif.” Despite all that fruit the wine has an edge (and satisfying finish) well-suited for pre-dinner consumption, but you could keep drinking it through the meal.
This $9 Chenin Blanc has a refreshing level of fruit-integrated acidity, but I don't call it racy, especially as it is complemented by a mouth feel that pokes now and then into the realm of “luscious.” The product mainly of low yielding bush vines in the Agter-Paarl region of South Africa's Western Cape, the wine is created from free run juice, fermented in 100% stainless steel, and kept on its lees until bottling.
The name Man does not refer to the gender of the vintners per se but is a coinage based on
the first names of their wives: Marie, Annette, and Nicky. That said, Charles Back, José
Conde, and Tyrell Myburgh are proud of what they have accomplished in what they term
“Extreme Terroir,” proclaiming that “Grape growing in the Perderberg Hills is not for
wimps.” On a somewhat lighter note, they certify their wine (which has an iconic image of a
human on the label) as 100% critter free: “Could've slapped on something cute and furry but
the world doesn't need another critter label” is another maker statement with which I
South Africa, where the grape is sometimes still called “Steen,” produces more Chenin Blanc than France.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman