Without the efforts of men like Ken Forrestern Chenin Blanc might be scarcely more than a footnote to the country's recent winemaking history – a workhorse grape responsible for vast amounts of forgettably bland white wine.
But this Zambia-born former restaurateur saw beyond the grape's obvious quaffability, placing it firmly at the centre of his resurrection of the historic Scholtzenhof farm on the slopes of Stellenbosch's Helderberg mountain in the early 1990s.
Twenty years on, Ken is known as ‘Mr Chenin' and wines such as The FMC have elevated South African Chenin to classic status – but the Scholtzenhof renaissance is about more than the ugly duckling transformation of an underrated varietal.
The Helderberg vineyards, Ken discovered, also contained what were at the time the only plantings of Grenache in Stellenbosch, dating from 1953 and helping to create what was in 1996 a unique South African blend of Shiraz and Grenache – and which now finds expression in wines such as The Renegade and The Gypsy.
When not revolutionising the South African wine industry, Ken remains a staunch family man, also surrounded by a veritable menagerie of several dogs, horses, stable cats, geese, owls and guineafowl. And he hasn't entirely left his restaurant days behind – Ken part-owns renowned nearby restaurant 96 Winery Road with his brother Allan (also restaurant manager), winemaker Martin Meinert and chef Natasha Wray.
The grapes are grown in vinyeards located in the Western Cape. The Grenache is grown on decomposed granite soild at 450m and the Shiraz from ancient gravels onto clay.
A hand-picked selection of the first ripest fruit, taken to the cellar and cool soaked prior to fermentation, then taken to new French oak barrels for 12 months. At this point a further selection takes place before blending and the final blend goes back to new barrels to marry and harmonise over the following 12 months. After almost 2 years languishing in a cool cellar the Gypsy is stable with the oak and intense fruit totally harmonised.
Wild character with hints of nutmeg, cinnamon, dark spices, with vanilla scents and a distinct, concentrated red-fruit focus. Great for laying down and keeping for at least ten years but already rewarding if allowed to breathe in a decanter.
Deliciously matched with risotto, sensuously truffled pasta. Ideal for flavoursome grills, lamb and beef.