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Blackwater Piquet, Swartland South Africa, Chenin Blanc 2017

 Like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Argentinian Malbec, Chenin Blanc has found a specific home in the New World: this time in the vineyards of South Africa. This country has surpassed France to become the largest grower and producer of Chenin, and it remains the most-planted variety there. Chenin Blanc arrived in South Africa in the mid-17th Century and was immediately popular for its productivity and its ability to generate high acidity, even in hot conditions.

Swartland is a large wine-producing area 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of Cape Town in the Western Cape of South Africa. Traditionally a wheat-producing region, it now specializes in making rich, fruit-driven wines particularly from the Shiraz, Chenin Blanc, and Pinotage grape varieties.

The climate is hot and dry, which viticulturists have used to their advantage in Swartland’s vineyards. Dry conditions significantly reduce the risk of fungal diseases among the vines, and a lack of water in the soil leads to lower yields and smaller, more-concentrated fruit. Hardy, drought-resistant bush vines have been utilized in the hottest, driest parts of the region.

Swartland (Dutch for ‘black land’) is named for the native renosterbos (rhinoceros bush) that turns black after rain. Chenin Blanc and Shiraz are the most important grape varieties in the region; the latter is often blended with Grenache and Mourvedre to create a Southern Rhone Blend.

With this wine, Francois Hassbroek has crafted a delectable Chenin Blanc in South Africa. This is a dry and linear Chenin Blanc, with depth and richness. A full nose of apricot , warm sourdough, and honey mingle with minerals and citrus with hints of pear skin. This wine saw 10 months in large (200-500 Liter) old oak barrels. Only 2,300 bottles were produced.

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