When I first connected with Lubanzi, this is the wine that most intrigued me. With a vast array of Rhône wines available to me here in California (and, it seems, that number is increasing based on this year’s Rhône Ranger event), I was quite eager to taste what a South African expression of this French tradition would taste like. Unlike where California’s Rhône grape varieties are planted, there’s not much similar between the soil and the climate between South Africa’s Western Cape and the French Rhône Valley. Though most texts will tell you that this western pocket of Africa does “enjoy a Mediterranean climate,” I would go ahead and edit that to “a Mediterranean-like” climate, as the combination of ocean, dessert, and mountainscape, creates quite a unique terroir situation and, thus, interesting Rhône interpretations.
About the Wine: The Lubanzi 2016 Chenin Blanc is made from 100% Chenin Blanc grapes harvested from the Swartland W.O. in South Africa.
Swartland, located just 40 miles north of Cape Town in the Western Cape WO, was originally a wheat-production region. Today, it is one of the WO’s main grape-growing regions, the most important grapes being Shiraz and Chenin Blanc. Topography here includes varying degrees of elevation, as it sits between the Paardeberg mountain in the south, the Piketberg plains in the north, and the Kasteelberg Moutnain to the east. The dominant soil type here is Malmesbury shale (named after Swartland’s central town of Malmesbury) — a good soil for natural drainage improved even further by the area’s elevation. Because it is somewhat separated from the Atlantic Ocean, Swartland’s climate is actually a hot and dry one, which is a benefit to Chenin Blanc, a tightly clustered grape variety susceptible to mildew and fungal disease when exposed to wet environments.
And, so it is here that Lubanzi sources their Chenin Blanc grapes.