2019 MAN Family Wines Chenin Blanc
To tempt you: MAN Family Vintners Steen leaps from the glass with the fragrance of pineapple, Cara Cara oranges, pomelos and citronella blossoms. On the palate it’s tangy and soft, as easy-drinking as it is fun. It glides into your tummy, leaving a whispered kiss of honey finish on the palate, rubbing you like a smiling Buddha for a job well done.
Steen is the Afrikaans name for Chenin Blanc. Chenin Blanc used to be a big deal in America, as well as in France and South Africa. It was as ubiquitous as Chardonnay, or (dare I say it) as common as a Sauvignon Blanc patio pounder.
But that is all old history. Really old history – about 150 years. Nowadays, not many people drink Steen / Chenin Blanc.
So why does this matter?
In winemaking, just because popularity sways to another grape or another part of the world doesn’t mean that the vineyard goes away. And South Africa is tremendously rich with old vine Steen. REALLY old vine Steen.
The thought is that old vines work harder, delivering richer, tastier, more magnificent wines. These 100-year-old South African vineyards contribute complexity, a lush fruity richness on the palate, and that lingering finish mentioned above.
But there is another reason this all matters: the wine is cheap. REALLY cheap. Cheap no matter how you want to phrase it: inexpensive, a value, great quality-to-price ratio (QPR). It’s cheap because vineyards are not like vending machines spitting out a bottle of Coke. Vineyards will produce grapes every year. Farmers either do something with them or take a loss. In the case of MAN, and most of South Africa in general, the vineyards are massively large, very old and long since paid for. In other words, make it or lose it. Finally, supply is abundant and demand is low. This equation adds up to really cheap wine – yet really amazing wine as well.
As you drink the bottle (as I am now), aromas of peach, nectarine, papaya and gooseberry tantalize the tongue. The kiss of honey broadens the wine to a lush sensibility, a pleasure in wholesome curvaceousness. It is the taste of charm – the dimple on a smiling cheek, a simple sense of happiness that enlivens the world: This is MAN Family Vintners Steen.
Or, as the couples behind MAN vintners says “it’s a simple idea – make a wine that we would love to buy.” Indeed they have.