Painted Wolf The Den Chenin Blanc 2018
The story of Painted Wolf winery is a love story, beginning in the early 1990s when safari camp manager Emma found her camp in need of a chef. Jeremy, an experienced chef, had by then started his journey into winemaking, was due to begin a seasonal wine making job in the Cape before returning to his full time position at Rosenblum cellars in California. Jeremy took what was intended to be a short sabbatical from his cellar position to cook for the camp in Botswana. However, things took an unexpected turn as he immersed himself back into the African bush of his childhood and he and Emma became an item. This eventually led to a wedding under a big acacia tree in the African wilderness, where the snapping wildlife photographers outnumbered all of the other guests. Emma and Jeremy made a pact on that day to make it their life’s work to support conservation and African wild spaces.
Jeremy joined the winemaking team at Fairview Wine Estates, and was instrumental in the development of Goats do Roam, a Rhône style blend, at one time the top selling premium South African wine. After struggling for a few years to find the right space, a chance encounter with a magazine discussing the plight of Painted Wolves in South Africa led to the creation of a company whose ideals and philosophy built on the incredible empathy, social interaction, energy and cooperation between African Painted Wolves. Painted Wolf Wines nurture relationships which allow the crafting of wines which have a lot of character, and which are crafted to deliver a great deal of pleasure. A regular stream of revenue allows for the ongoing funding of half a dozen different charities supporting the conservation of the Painted Wolf, and other species - they like the underrepresented and the “unloved”. They also support poor and underprivileged children living in wilderness areas - one cannot sustainably protect wild spaces and wild animals unless the people who live in the immediate proximity see the benefit from conservation too. Over the years relationships have been forged with organic and sustainable grape growers in half a dozen South African wine producing regions.
Over the years they have managed to donate around 4% of their revenue to conservation, a significant part of their profit. Their efforts have been recognized and they are the recipient of a Cheetah award from the Endangered Wildlife Trust in recognition of their efforts. Their wines continue to get better and better and in 2019 came out from the cold to be judged to be the most successful producer of the year at the prestigious Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show. Over the past years this award had consistently gone to South Africa prestigious blue-chip wines.
With an important wine renaissance in full swing, impressive red and white bargains abound in South Africa. The country has a particularly long and rich history with winemaking, especially considering its status as part of the “New World.” In the mid-17th century, the lusciously sweet dessert wines of Constantia were highly prized by the European aristocracy. Since then, the South African wine industry has experienced some setbacks due to the phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s and political difficulties throughout the following century.
Today, however, South Africa is increasingly responsible for high-demand, high-quality wines—a blessing to put the country back on the international wine map. Wine production is mainly situated around Cape Town, where the climate is generally warm to hot. But the Benguela Current from Antarctica provides brisk ocean breezes necessary for steady ripening of grapes. Similarly, cooler, high-elevation vineyard sites throughout South Africa offer similar, favorable growing conditions.
South Africa’s wine zones are divided into region, then smaller districts and finally wards, but the country’s wine styles are differentiated more by grape variety than by region. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is the country’s “signature” grape, responsible for red-fruit-driven, spicy, earthy reds. When Pinotage is blended with other red varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Pinot Noir (all commonly vinified alone as well), it is often labeled as a “Cape Blend.” Chenin Blanc (locally known as “Steen”) dominates white wine production, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc following close behind.
Unquestionably one of the most diverse grape varieties, Chenin Blanc can do it all. It shines in every style from bone dry to unctuously sweet, oaked or unoaked, still or sparkling and even as the base for fortified wines and spirits. Perhaps Chenin Blanc’s greatest asset is its ever-present acidity, maintained even under warm growing conditions. Somm Secret—Landing in South Africa in the mid 1800s, today the country has double the acreage of Chenin Blanc planted compared to France. There is also a new wave of dedicated producers committed to restoring old Chenin vines.