If I were to pick a bottle of South African Chenin Blanc to drink, it would probably be the Ken Forrester Dirty Little Secret…
Ken Forrester (an ex-restaurateur) started the winery in 1994 with the hope to make Chenin Blanc in Stellenbosch that can rival Loire Valley Chenin Blanc. Impressively, Ken Forrester (also known as Mr Chenin Blanc) sold 400 cases of his wine in the first year, now he is selling more than 80,000 cases. Ken is hoping to increase the production to more than 200,000 cases in the next 4 years.
Located south of Stellenbosch (approximately 6 km from the coast) near the Helderberg Mountain, most of Ken Forrester estate wines comes from their owns 38 hectares vineyards. The Petit range is the entry level wines of Ken Forrester, where all the grapes are bought from other vineyards.
The main vineyards that goes into the Iconic wines (such as FMC) are around the estate.
I would recommend trying their FMC Chenin Blanc and Dirty Little Secret, they are one of the finest examples of Chenin Blanc in South Africa. Not only have they won numerous awards, they can easily compete with Chenin Blanc from Loire Valley.
Chenin Blanc 2006
This 2006 Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc was voted the Best Value Wine in 2008 in the Wine Magazine. Perhaps this 2006 Chenin Blanc is somewhat too mature for most wine drinkers today, it is still interesting to observe how certain type of South African Chenin Blanc change as it ages. Interestingly the nose showed more Riesling-like petrol aroma than an aged Loire Chenin Blanc. Low tone cream, nutmeg, coleslaw. Oily texture. Most likely the FMC and the Dirty Little Secret will age better than this! (75/100)
Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017
2017, another great year for western Cape, dry and easy harvest. The only issue is drought, resulting in smaller and more concentrated berries. The Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc from Ken Forrester Vineyards comes from 37 year old Chenin Blanc vines, a 2.43 ha vineyard located next to the tasting garden of the Ken Forrester Vineyards. Subtle spicy and warm creaminess. Spent 8 months on lees. A mixture of oak and stainless steel unlike their Cuvee FMC. Right toned but not exciting. Higher alcohol than FMC. (82/100)
The FMC 2016
The 2016 FMC is a league above their Old Vine Reserve, offering more complexity and ripeness. They use drones to check grape ripeness before grape picking. 12 months on French oak, 25% new. Meursault-esque creaminess, profound feeling of richness and intensity. Tropical fruits and vanilla, well supported by refreshing acidity. Ken Forrester FMC truly deserves the title of ‘King of Chenin’. (85/100)
Roussanne Barrel Selection 2013
This 2013 Ken Forrester Roussanne is so attractive it makes me wonder why there aren’t a lot of Roussanne grown in South Africa. Roussanne is a grape variety that benefits from warm temperatures and long sunlight hours, both qualities South Africa does not lack of. This 2013 Roussanne is only sold directly from the estate. It emits an attractive array of warm exotic fruits and spicy aromas. Hints of cat wee and white blossom. Well toned acidity and alcohol, pungent aromas but nowhere too viscous. (84/100)
Dirty Little Secret 2015
This 2015 Dirty Little Secret is 100% Chenin Blanc from old vines, sourced from a 1.6ha vineyard in the Piekeneerskloof (a 2 hour drive from Ken Forrester estate). Planted in 1965, minimal intervention and no irrigation. 2000 bottles made. More refined and focused than FMC. Great energy and subtly of rich citrus and white flowers. Elegant and soft bodied, great acidity. (88/100)
The Gypsy 2011
The Gypsy is the flagship red wine of Ken Forrester. It is a blend of Syrah, Grenache (usually the main varietal in The Gypsy expect in 2011), and small amount of Mourvedre. Classic GSM blend. Nice red raspberry fruit fragrant and black olives of Grenache with a darker shade of Syrah fruits and spices. The fresh juicy blueberry fruits, liquorice and high alcohol stood out under the heat on the Ken Forrester estate. An elegant GSM blend despite the high alcohol content. Awkward oak spices and residual sugar. (83/100)
In September 2016, Ken Forrester sold 51% stake of the winery for an undisclosed amount to the French winery company AdVini, who owns more than 30 wineries across France and South Africa. Ken Forrester will remain CEO at the winery, but I suspect they will increase the production of their Chenin Blancs and expand their exposure in Asia.
For more information please visit: http://www.kenforresterwines.com/