In South African Wine
on 06 Mar 14

I've been a fan of Raats Family Wines for quite some time; as if after my own heart, winemaker Bruwer Raats focuses on cabernet franc and chenin blanc––the grapes of the Loire Valley. I ordered this chenin blanc with the intention of bringing it to a tasting, but I couldn't resist keeping it all for myself and enjoying its evolution over a couple of days, starting with the first Academy Awards ceremony I've cared enough to watch in years.

Raats Old Vines Chenin

I almost enjoy white wine pairings more than red––the acidity makes it easy, and a large percentage of my cooking is vegetarian and/or cheese-focused. For this chenin I went to one of my favorite dishes: homemade pizza with baby greens, a light cheese, dried figs, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Lush, perfumed, with just a little toasted pine on the nose, this wine opens beautifully, and then on the palate the acidity is mouthwatering. Gooseberry, apple peel, and spices––maybe just a tingle of clove?––come forward, but there is something gamey, lustful, about it, breathing heavily against the delicate tropical notes. On the second day, tangy lime, more green apple, and slate come through, piercing with intent.

I could drink this wine with a cheese plate for the rest of my life, honestly, though the winery's Duck L'Orange suggestion is a good one. Fermenting it 80 percent in stainless-steel fermenters with the remainder in French oak, with seven months on lees after blending, has given it just the right balance that good chenin blanc should have: the soft curves of a chardonnay and the high-wire vibrato of a riesling.

I enjoyed most of this wine while watching Oscar highlights, notably Lupita Nyong'o's acceptance speech, and cannot think of a better pairing for that perfect moment.

Julia Burke reviews South African wine and writes about social justice, the South African wine industry, and her own adventures in winemaking.