Chenin Blanc is easily the most underrated wine grape in the world. At its best, it yields amazingly complex and delicious wines, and in an unmatched array of styles: dry, semisweet, sweet, and even sparkling (it is also the most versatile grape on the planet). Nowhere is the grape more widely planted than in South Africa, where it was first cultivated in the late 17th century. The South African wine industry is still shaking off the calamitous effects of the Apartheid era, but it is now turning out a number of stellar wines, and the Chenin Blancs, which tend to show ripe, almost tropical fruit but also have a strong mineral undertow, are particularly impressive.
One of South Africa’s most dynamic young producers is Adi Badenhorst. A third-generation vintner based in the Swartland region, Badenhorst works in a hands-off style (using only indigenous yeasts, for instance) and turns out very distinctive and pleasurable wines. His 2011 Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc is a superb white that offers excellent quality for the price, and it is a great example of why many people (this writer among them) are so bullish about South African chenins.
The Badenhorst Secateurs is a zesty, slightly spicy white, with the waxy texture characteristic of chenin and plenty of refreshing acidity. It terrific summer wine that will work well either as an aperitif or with fish, poultry, and even pasta dishes, and for those suffering from sauvignon blah and chardonnay ennui, it is a terrific alternative. [$15; wine.com]
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