Wine of the Week 16: Rhebokskloof Flatrock Chenin Blanc 2023

Wine of the Week 16: Rhebokskloof Flatrock Chenin Blanc 2023

A fruity summer-drinking chenin from the slopes of Paarl Mountain.

Often referred to as the chameleon among white varieties for its adaptability, chenin blanc takes on beautiful nuances from the terroir on Paarl’s Rhebokskloof estate. Embraced in a natural amphitheatre of a valley that rises into the biodiverse fynbos-clad northern slopes of Paarl Mountain, the vineyards take advantage of a variety of aspects. “The only slopes we don’t have on the farm are south-facing ones,” says winemaker Rolanie Lotz. “The soil is mostly decomposed granite which is very nice for chenin blanc, giving lots of concentration.”

Rhebokskloof: Flatrock Chenin Blanc Tasting

The Flatrock Chenin Blanc belongs to Rhebokskloof’s approachable and accessible range, named after the estate’s famous flat rock outlook on top of the mountain. “This chenin blanc is an unoaked style, more fruity, an easy drinking summer wine,” says Rolanie. “It’s ideal for our outdoor functions and picnics here on the farm, especially in summertime.”

Rhebokskloof’s winemaking philosophy is all about showcasing the estate’s unique terroir, and preserving natural fruit aromas and the character of the grapes with careful craftsmanship. The vineyards Rolanie has to work with are relatively young, planted between 2002 and 2016, but giving her plenty of diversity. “For our Rhebokskloof Chenin Blanc we usually select just one block, but for the Flatrock Chenin Blanc we combine carefully selected grapes from all our chenin blocks – some bush and trellis, older and younger vineyards, quite a big variety goes into it. We aim for smaller berries with lots of concentration in the berries.”

The 2023 harvest

Rhebokskloof: Farming

“The 2023 was an interesting harvest,” Rolanie says, “but luckily the chenin came in quite early. We harvested towards the end of January and early February so got the harvest in before the cool weather hit.” All the grapes are hand-picked, then the bunches are further hand-sorted, so that only the best are used for fermentation and further maturation. “All in all 2023 was a very nice vintage for the whites.”

Flatrock Chenin Blanc 2023

Rhebokskloof: Flatrock Chenin Blanc Bottle

Having scored a Double Gold at the Gilbert & Gaillard International Challenge 2023, this year’s vintage is living up well to its summer-drinking potential. But with chenin’s naturally high acidity, it’s also one you can keep for two to three years, to enjoy as it gracefully matures into a nuanced and richer wine, reminiscent of its well-aged cousins from the Loire Valley. The wine remains on the lees for about three months prior to bottling, which adds to the complexity on the palate.

After inviting aromas of green apple and lime and a suggestion of honeysuckle on the nose, the wine is full and creamy on the palate. There’s a touch of dried apricot, pineapple and mango, finishing with a hint of vanilla, white pepper and minerality, well balanced by the lively acidity and freshness.

“I would describe it as my perfect summer wine for a picnic or drinking outdoors. It goes beautifully with salads, white meats, even seafood, all those summery dishes,” says Rolanie.
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