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South Africa Wine and Stellenbosch University launch Chenin Blanc project

A new initiative has been launched in South Africa to assess the premiumisation and value growth of Chenin Blanc in the country.

The project includes South Africa Wine, the South African Grape and Wine Research Institute (SAGWRI), Stellenbosch University, and the Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa (CBA).

It is led by Professor Melané Vivier and a group of academics to gain recognition for Chenin in the country, and the economic feasibility of the variety. Five work streams are being produced, including market intelligence, the distinctiveness of Chenin Blancs in the country, production for profit, juice into wine, and the support systems needed.

As part of the project, a model Chenin Blanc vineyard planted with 19 different trellising systems has been created, generating scenarios ranging from very high to very low yields. Experimentation and analysis, production strategies and various approaches to winemaking will all be considered.


It builds on previous research into the grape variety, and includes student bursaries. An investment of more than R4m has been delivered by South Africa Wine with co-funding from the National Research Foundation (NRF), with the aim of providing both the sustainability and innovation within the country’s wine sector.

The relationship between Stellenbosch University and the wine industry has a long history of more than 100 years. The first professor in viticulture at the institution, Professor Abraham Izak Perold, created Pinotage in 1925.

Gerard Martin, research, development and innovation executive at South Africa Wine, said of the project: “South Africa Wine remains dedicated to driving progress and excellence within the South African wine landscape through proactive research and innovation.

“That is why we partnered with various stakeholders in this project to grow the value of Chenin Blanc.”

“Chenin Blanc was chosen as the project’s focal point due to its widespread cultivation and growing reputation. Additionally, substantial industry expertise in crafting high-quality wines from Chenin Blanc grapes makes it an ideal candidate for exploration.

“The economic sustainability of wine producers in South Africa faces significant challenges, necessitating value growth in bulk and packaged wines. This initiative is designed to tackle these obstacles head-on through multidisciplinary methodologies. With a key emphasis on striking a delicate balance between grape yield and wine quality, the project aims to ensure the profitability of South African Chenin Blanc wines.”


Chenin Blanc Association (CBA) chairman and co-founder Ken Forrester, said: “This project underscores our longstanding belief in Chenin’s adaptability, excellence, and potential to compete internationally,” says . “We are delighted to be a partner in advancing the research of South African Chenin Blanc and emphasise its significance in our industry.”

Professor Vivier added: “Adopting a market-centric approach, the project endeavours to tailor grape production and winemaking processes to align with consumer preferences and market demands. Integrated data analyses, economic evaluations, and demonstrated results will drive data-driven decision-making and foster industry-wide innovation.”

“We are thrilled to embark on this collaborative journey to unlock the full potential of South African Chenin Blanc wines. By partnering with various industry stakeholders, we aim to drive sustainable growth and differentiation within the industry.”

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