Chenin Blanc: Loire & South Africa
There is no variety which gives more joy than Chenin Blanc (sit down, Riesling fans), and thus by extension there is no better tasting than one featuring exclusively Chenin Blanc. Especially when the selection of wines includes some top examples of the variety, from both the Loire Valley and South Africa. So when I learnt of plans for just such a tasting, albeit a small one, hosted by Etienne Neethling, of the École Supérieure des Agricultures in Angers, it set my Chenin spidey-senses tingling.
Originally from South Africa, Etienne Neethling studied viticulture and oenology at the University of Stellenbosch, before he moved to Angers in the Loire Valley, in 2008, to complete his studies. Today he works as a lecturer and researcher at the École Supérieure des Agricultures. His research interests are many, but include the environmental impacts on vine performance and wine quality, and helping wine growers adapt to a changing climate.
The tasting, held during the course of Wine Paris earlier this year, gave a number of willing guinea pigs (myself included) six wines – three from the Loire Valley and three from South Africa – for blind assessment. Etienne was interested in gaining an understanding of what language and descriptors tasters use to describe the wines of these two distinct regions. In contrast my interest was simply seeing what differences and similarities I could pick out in the wines. Specifically, given my long relationship with the wines of the Loire Valley (and despite my relatively poor knowledge of South African wine), could I pick out which wines belonged to which region?
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