It was with keen anticipation that I screwed open a sample of Asara 2015 chenin blanc from their Vineyard Collection range. It has been a long while since I tasted any of their wines, although I often thought about them when swinging past their entrance on route to Stellenbosch.
This wine, states estate manager Pete Gottgens, is the first of a vinous renaissance at Asara, the maiden result of a new regime and team. It’s an impressive chenin on every count, from its nose presenting a meld of honeysuckle and ripe stone fruit followed by a rich and concentrated mix of fruit flavours and subtle oak. The alcohol count is 14%, which is higher than Europe and the UK like, but most South Africans are less concerned about this facet with consumers in the Far East are even less so. The wine has just walked off with an international trophy for Best New World Wine at the 2016 Japan Wine Challenge, bringing home gold as well which is a pleasing start for their quality projections.
The estate grapes were sourced from a 20-year-old block, just short of 2 ha, sited at 200m above sea level. Winemaker Danielle le Roux and consultant Abe Beukes left the berries hang until mid-March before harvesting. After pressing the wine went straight into oak. While the wine is agreeably fresh in spite of its fruit intensity it could be even more palatable if discernible minerality added backbone: Perhaps this aspect could develop in bottle.
Food wise, this is a chenin that will accommodate complex salads and all manner of poultry dishes, including some Oriental classics.
Priced at R80, it offers good value as well. While I haven’t tasted the 2014 chenin, one thing’s for sure – the 2015 is worth a lot more than the 2 and half stars Platter awarded the previous vintage.