Wine on

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 July, 2003, 12:00am

South African chenin blancs

KWV Chenin Blanc 2002, $62 South Africa has the largest plantings of chenin blanc, with 30,000 hectares of the vine. It was first planted around Cape Town in 1655 and for 300 years was known as 'Steen'. Whatever it's called, Cape chenin blanc is a simple, enjoyable wine. To my palate, it has a lot more flavour than chenin has in other countries. The KWV is a nice example of the genre, with the typical very pale straw colour and aroma of fresh-mown hay so common with good chenins. Don't muck about with this. It's made to be drunk young and fresh, so make sure it's well chilled. Wellcome (tel: 2299 3838)

Bon Courage 3 Rivers Chenin Blanc 2002, $60 So popular is this easy-to-grow grape in South Africa that the Chenin Blanc Association of Winemakers recognises six styles ranging from fresh and fruity to rich and oaky to sweet dessert and sparkling wines. Many have a floral perfume, others taste distinctly of apples or apricots. Pay attention when you sip the Bon Courage and imagine the flavour of peaches and apricots. This estate in the Breede River Valley is on limestone soil and it's not surprising that chardonnay also does well there. Summer days are like a dry furnace, but at night the temperatures drop dramatically, giving the fruit vitality. The grapes are hand-picked and fermented in stainless steel; enjoy the direct, natural flavour. Orient Pacific (tel: 2791 6332)

Morgenhof Chenin Blanc 2002, $115 All chenin blanc goes well with seafood, so it is a good companion to Cantonese seafood. Make sure you chill it well and if you feel like adding a few ice cubes, go ahead and to hell with the wine snobs. This estate is one of the most famous in Stellenbosch, the heartland of Cape wine farms. I adore this distinguished yellow wine with its smoky lemon-lime overtones. It's spent eight months in oak and is more complex than many youthful South African chenin blancs. There's a wide range of Cape chenin blancs on sale in Hong Kong, and these three are all prime value for money examples. Ponti (tel: 2328 3218)