Dear The Wine Ladies,

Up until now, I have never had the opportunity to taste any wines from South Africa. Last month we were given a bottle as a gift, a delicious white wine made from a grape that I believe was called “Steen”. Both the wine, it was an older vintage, and the grapes were new to us. Being in the South African wine mood, we purchased at Vintages another South African wine – Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc. We thought it was amazing! We would like to know your thoughts on both of these wines.

– Brittany

Dear Brittany,

We actually have not had the opportunity yet to taste the Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc. We can tell you however that this producer’s vineyard is located in the heart of South Africa’s most famous wine region called Stellenbosch and that their vineyards are known as the “Home of Chenin Blanc”. Not surprising that it was a wonderful wine and we look forward to enjoying it ourselves someday soon!

Now to steen…

Steen is actually the name of the most planted white grape variety in South Africa, which is more commonly called Chenin Blanc. In fact, there are very few wines left these days that are labeled Steen, which is a shame as the name has a long history in South Africa’s wine industry. Chenin Blanc, or Steen has the ability to make some wonderful wines in a broad range of styles. At one end of the spectrum, it is capable of producing some of the longest living sweet wines, while at the other end; it is used for table wines and even for the base wine for fortified wines and spirits. It does have a natural high acidity, which serves it well in hotter climates, often producing lively wines with good fruit and with a flavour reminiscent of honey. Steen, or Chenin Blanc is also called Pineau or Pineau de la Loire in its native region. The Loire is located in the northwestern part of France.