Dave McIntyre says these six South African chenin blancs demonstrate good quality and value.
Spice Route Chenin Blanc, 2008
Coastal Region, South Africa, $19
It's beautiful: ripe and rich with orchard fruit flavors and a long, languorous finish. This wine is new to the market and not yet widely placed.
Bacchus in the District and Maryland; Country Vintner in Virginia.
The Winery of Good Hope Chenin Blanc, 2008
Stellenbosch, South Africa, $12
There were apples, pears, wild herbs and an elusive flavor that slipped out of the glass when I wasn't sniffing. This is an impressively complex wine; I kept rubbing the bottle, hoping a genie would appear and offer me three more glasses.
Kacher/Washington Wholesale: Available in the District at Dixie Liquor, Magruder's, Pearson's; on the list at Cafe Dupont, Sequoia, Tonic, Washington Club. Available in Virginia at Maison du Vin in Great Falls.
Ken Forrester "Petit" Chenin Blanc, 2009
Stellenbosch, South Africa, $10
This is a terrific little wine, a favorite on area wine lists because it tastes more expensive than it is. Made without barrels, it is crisp and fruity, quite refreshing, with a hint of citrus. Ken Forrester makes several chenins of consistently high quality and value. They are worth seeking out.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Paul's of Chevy Chase, Rodman's; on the list at Clyde's. Available in Virginia at Balducci's locations in McLean and Alexandria, Unwined in Alexandria; on the list at Evo Bistro.
Raats "Original" Chenin Blanc, 2009
Coastal Region, South Africa, $14
Tight and citrusy, this unwooded chenin should develop more complexity by Christmas. Right now it shows great focus and verve.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Whole Foods Market Tenleytown; on the list at Legal Seafood. Available in Maryland at the Bottle Shop in Potomac. Available in Virginia at Out of Site Wines in Vienna.
Valley Vineyards Wine Company the Royal "Old Vines Steen"
Chenin Blanc, 2009
Swartland, South Africa, $9
This wine packs a deceptive punch. And that punch tastes of apples, pears and quince, with an appealing herbal note that helps it pair well with salads and other light fare. Don't drink it too cold, or you might miss all the fruit.
Kysela: Widely available in the District, Maryland and Virginia, including in the District at Calvert Woodley, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Marvelous Market on Capitol Hill, Watergate Wine & Beverage, Whole Foods Market P Street; in Maryland at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Annapolis; in Virginia at Curious Grape in Shirlington, Balducci's locations in McLean and Alexandria, Magruder's locations in Vienna and Alexandria, Whole Foods Market Alexandria, Best Cellars in Arlington, Aldie Peddler in Aldie.
Douglas Green Steen, 2009
Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, $9
It's a nice, straightforward chenin and a good introduction to the variety.
Republic National: Available in the District at Magruder's, Manhattan Market, Rodman's, Sheffield Wine & Liquor Shop, S&S Liquors, Van Ness Wines and Liquors; on the list at F Street Bistro.
*** Exceptional ** Excellent * Very Good
Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.