Posted by: tomciocco | July 16, 2012


It’s one of the most surprising trivia tidbits in wine, in my opinion. “What is?” you ask? Well, it’s the fact that longest continuously existing wine producing region outside of the vine’s greater European heartland is in…South Africa! Yup, it’s true. Beginning in the 1640s (!), French Huguenot and Dutch settlers began planting vineyards in the geographical environs of what was to become Cape Town, and documentation of the production of wine from these vines comes only a decade later. The venerable Constantia Estate just ouside of Cape Town has existed continuously since 1685. 

Precisely what grapes were being grown on this southwestern tip of the African continent in the 17th century is still unclear, but one of  The Cape’s long-time staple white grape varieties continues to be none other than the great and fantastically versatile Loire white, Chenin Blanc. The precise date of Chenin’s arrival in this area is a bit foggy, but the fact that Chenin Blanc has had the time to take on the local name “Steen” (pronounced shteen) tells you that it wasn’t last week.

Tonight’s wine hails from a somewhat mountainous section of the Swartland wine region that extends north from Cape Town. The source vines for this wine are 40-50 years old, are bush trained, and non-irrigated, which adds up to low yields, and sweet, concentrated musts (a fancy viticultural term for unfiltered grape juice), and consequently, intense powerful wines. Apparently, this “Secateurs” wine is from Badenhorst’s second line, and it’s quite a burly drink, so I wonder what their top wines are all about?

I served this big, very characterful wine with a black-eyd pea salad with cucmber, scallions, and avocado as an appetizer, and then a South African-style chicken curry (South Africa has a large Indian population) with yogurt, tomatoes, onions, and prunes, over Basmati rice.










A.A. Badenhorst Chenin Blanc “Secateurs” Swartland, R.S.A.

Very bright and limpid medium golden color. Big, clean nose of kiwi and yellow cherry fruit, coconut custard pie, rocky earth, grass, and a slightly perfumy florality. In the mouth the wine is muscular and chewy, viscous and fairly rich, but with a broad zesty acidity, and a deeply intense and cohesive core that stages flavors of fresh pineapple juice, crushed lemons and oranges, apricot, rosemary, and bacon fat. Powerful, flinty bittersweet finish. 


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