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Flagstone celebrates ‘Cinderella’ Chenin

Bruce Jack, head winemaker for Accolade Wines in South Africa, has called Chenin Blanc “an extraordinary” variety as he unveiled a new wine to support his belief that South Africa’s high end success will be delivered through the on-trade.

Bruce Jack shows off Flagstone’s new Tributary Chenin Blanc at Cape Wine

Called Tributary, this latest addition to the Flagstone brand portfolio uses grapes from 45-year old bush vines in Perdeberg, which lies on the border between Paarl and Swartland, with 25% matured in old barrels. It is due to arrive in the UK later this month through on-trade supplier Matthew Clark and will carry an RRP of about £30.

Although Flagstone has previously used Chenin in blends and for one-off projects, Tributary represents the brand’s first permanent single varietal expression of this grape.

“It’s an incredible catch all,” Jack said of the variety as he outlined Chenin’s ability to offer freshness for Sauvignon Blanc fans, a more subtle edge for Pinot Grigio lovers, and the body to appeal to Chardonnay drinkers. “It’s beyond versatile but in South Africa we haven’t really grasped that,” he told the drinks business.

In addition to highlighting this versatility, Jack noted Chenin’s genetic link to Riesling as he stressed its ability to produce age-worthy wines. “That’s why Vouvrays age so brilliantly,” he remarked. “Chenin is not only versatile – you can make some seriously premium wines out of it. This wine will age for 20-30 years.”

Explaining the delay in introducing a Chenin, which he called a “Cinderella” variety due to its steady image overhaul from “workhorse” to “princess” in South Africa, Jack told db: “At the premium end you’ve really got to be confident in the vineyard.”

Having found the right site and achieved the right result from its grapes, Jack suggested that Tributary was well placed to support Flagstone’s wider push forward into the on-trade.

“For me Flagstone is made for the on-trade,” he remarked. Picking out this sector as “the most important place for us to grow the image of South African premium wines,” Jack explained: “South African premium wine needs an element of

hand-sell so it needs sommeliers to list the product and engage with the product.”

Assessing the progress so far, Jack commented: “In the past it’s been very difficult to get into the on-trade in significant volumes but we’re now at a tipping point so it’s about giving people the tools they need to sell the wines.”

A more detailed look at South Africa’s development at the higher end of the market will appear in the drinks business‘ October issue.

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