The Wine of the Week by Annette Tomei
2013 MAN Family Wines, Free Run Steen (Chenin Blanc), Coastal Region, South Africa
Wine has been made in South Africa since the seventeenth century when the Dutch settled what is now Cape Town. The following centuries of political unrest kept South Africa on the fringe of the world wine market. It wasn’t until the late-twentieth century, when Apartheid ended, that things began to change. Since then, South African wineries have adopted new technology, new grape varieties, and the assistance of “flying winemakers” – notable names from Europe and beyond, whose expertise and fame have aided in the rapid growth of the region’s popularity.
Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted wine grape in South Africa, where it is more commonly know as Steen. This grape’s origins are in the Loire Valley in France where it is used for still, sparkling and dessert wines – its diversity is attributed to its naturally high acidity. The quality and flavor of the wines produced from Chenin Blanc are heavily influenced by terroir, viticulture and winemaking techniques.
MAN Family Winery is named after the wives* of three friends who, in 2001, set out to make wines that they themselves would enjoy drinking. The winery has grown from a production of 1000 cases to over 170,000 cases in the past decade. The fruit is sourced from the Agter-Paarl, a hot and very dry region that produces concentrated complex wines. MAN’s winemaking methods are as simple as possible – including the use of only free-run juice (versus pressing) – to allow the distinct terroir to show in the quality and flavor of the wine.
This wine is an excellent value – the intensity and complexity far exceed the modest price (typically under $10/bottle). The rich aroma and flavors of ripe, lush pear lingers and is followed by bright, super tart but silky steeliness with more pear and some clementine – Lovely and lively! This wine is great for an aperitif, but will go well with a wide variety of flavors from simple fish preparations, pork or duck with savory fruit sauces, or your choice of Southeast Asian curry or noodle dishes.
* Named after the first initials of each wife’s name: Marie, Anette, and Nicky
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