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Downham Market wine expert chooses South African whites for summer including Boschendal & Backsberg Chenin Blanc; Journey’s End’s Haystack Chardonnay

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Hello. With the Mediterranean summer having decided to holiday in the UK this year and the thermometer in my garden reading, ‘aaggghh!’, I thought I’d look at some cooling whites.

The observant among you will notice that these are all from South Africa, and there’s a good reason for that. Not that I’ve just re-read Christian Seely’s The Wines of South Africa – the perfect gift for children of all ages – but because the wines offer an unbeatable combination of unsurpassed quality and value. First up is the Boschendal 1865 Chenin Blanc (Tesco £9). This is a perfect summer solo sipper.

It offers plenty of mouth-wateringly pure green berry, grape, and Mirabelle plum fruit with a gorgeous honey overtone.

Backsberg Chenin Blanc.
Backsberg Chenin Blanc.

Towards the finish, notes of lemon and gooseberry come in, accompanied by herb and mineral touches. Far more complex than it first appears, this is a super wine from one of South African wine’s great estates.

Next up is another Chenin, but one in a rather different form. Chenin is one of those grapes – like Riesling, Semillon, and Chardonnay – that lends itself to a range of styles. The Backsberg Chenin Blanc 2021 (Wicked Cape Wines £9.90) demonstrates this by being richer and fuller, with a focus on tropical fruits, including pineapple and guava. All this richness is kept in check by a refreshing red apple acidity and a food-friendly dry finish.

South African Chardonnay has always been good. I recall tasting Hamilton Russell’s in a blind lineup where everyone (save a smug Master of Wine student) picked it as a Burgundy.

Old Road Wine Co. Single Vineyard Anemos Chenin Blanc.
Old Road Wine Co. Single Vineyard Anemos Chenin Blanc.

Journey’s End’s Haystack Chardonnay (Nobel Green £13) is an elegant incarnation of Chardonnay (unlike their brilliantly bonkers Honeycomb Chardonnay – £8 Ocado). Mid-gold, it’s fresh and packed with peaches, pears, and red apples with a touch of almonds and citrus to the finish. This would be glorious with chicken or a peppery rocket salad.

And to finish, we have another Chenin, the Old Road Wine Co. Anemos Chenin Blanc 2018 (Slurp, £19.95). Now £20 is serious money for a bottle of wine, but this is a serious bottle of wine. Gold in colour, the nose is complex and nuanced with everything from pears and white currants to deeper, headier notes of apricot, vanilla, and smoke.

In the mouth it’s surprisingly weighty for a Chenin, and flavours of quince, gooseberry, and honeydew melon mix easily with savoury notes of roasted nuts and earthy minerals. Serve this with barbecued white meats, lobster, or mushroom risotto and you’re in for a treat.

Well, here’s to the fine weather continuing. It better, I’m planning a piece on Cava next, and even I draw the line at sipping that in the rain. More soon!

Giles Luckett

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