Looking for a wonderful new grape to fall in love with? Chenin Blanc is her name and she’s a pretty cool cat. 

Chenin Blanc is a grape that has a soul from France, but resides modernly in South Africa. It is a grape with such character and culinary partnership that as a true wino you can’t afford to not know. Although some of the most well-known by sommeliers are from the Loire Valley in France, Chenin Blanc is known as South Africa’s signature white grape, and it’s damn delicious. With tomorrow (Saturday June 17th) being #DrinkChenin day – you can enjoy Chenin Blanc at great Toronto restaurants like The Chase, Brothers, Archive, Momofuku, LBS, Cactus Club, The Oxley, Byblos, and Chabrol.

Exotic blue seas, magical sunsets, picturesque mountain ranges, majestic flora, friendly strangers, and divine wine and cuisine. Blessed with a rare Mediterranean climate, South Africa is a must visit place on plante earth. With the perfect blend of old and new world influence, and exquisite farm-to-table cuisine and wine tourism, you’ll fall in love with it over and over again.

The Cape Winelands are located in the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of six such plant kingdoms in the world and a World Heritage Site. With both warm and cooler areas, winemakers can be artists and plant the grapes that excel in these conditions. In South Africa there is something for everyone who appreciates finely crafted artistic wines at an unbelievable price. This wine region is truly one of the most impressive, exotic and undiscovered that I’ve ever visited.

In awe of this magical place, I took a 10-day trip to explore and discover this part of Africa. Flying South African Airlines from Toronto to Cape Town was a smooth 15-hour flight from the Northern to Southern Hemisphere. The soft sea breeze greeted me warmly along

South Africa may be considered a new world wine growing region, but they’ve been making wine for over 350 years. Chenin Blanc is an old world grape variety hailing from the Loire region in France, and South Africa has adopted it as their signature white variety. The winemakers here are producing bottles that over perform for their price point.

With a perfect blend of new world innovation, such as concrete eggs for winemaking, as well as more traditional old world practices, like basket pressing, natural fermentation, old bush vines and hand-picked grapes South Africa is a blooming with artistry and quality. They also maintain a focus on the natural environment and a commitment to fair trade policies, ensuring that everyone on the farm is paid respectively for their work. We should all be buying more South African wine to show our support.

Take a gorgeous drive through Francschoek and admire the breathtaking scenery down the wine route and stop at wineries along the way. This is just a cool area, settled by the French – you can be assured that the wine is mighty fine.

Spend some time at the Winery of Good Hope and discover a love for Chenin Blanc and the talent of a seriously artistic winemaker. Be sure to taste at Ken Forrestor Wines in Stellenbosch, known as “the home of Chenin Blanc” and after having the pleasure of meeting Ken a few times, I’d like to say he may very well be the Godfather of South African Chenin Blanc.  Anthony de Jager has been making wine at Fairview for 18 years. He believes in innovation, hand-crafted wines and Chenin and Pinotage. In a place that receives a lot of sunlight, he farms by the sun and it is his best friend in the vineyard. He says Pinotage needs focus in the vineyard and is a difficult variety and he also loves.

South Africa has some really wonderful Chenin Blancs to try like:

KWV Vinecrafter (available at LCBO, $9.95)
Robertson Chenin Blanc (LCBO by the case online, at $8.95 per bottle)
Boschendal Pavillion Chenin Blanc (LCBO, $11.05)
Vinum Chenin Blanc (Vintages, $15.95)
Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc (Vintages, $17.95)