This wine is my absolute FAVORITE that I have purchased since I started this whole skint sommelier project. When I was going through the certification classes, we tasted a few Chenin Blancs, and I remember hating them, so I was hesitant to grab this one, despite the "no brainer" recommendation from the Wine Source. It was only after Chris and I went to a tasting at The Curious Grape, we tasted this wine and bought a bottle (I didn't realize it was the same one until we got home). Two strong recommendations from two great wine retailers later, and I finally cracked open a bottle and was DELIGHTED with the results.
Verdict: Awesome. The Royal, 2009 Old Vines Steen (another name for the South African Chenin Blanc grapes), sourced from 48 year-old vines in the Swartland wine growing region of South Africa is easily the most lovely, and universally drinkable South African wines that I've ever had. If I had blind taste-tested this wine, I would have guessed that it was French because the mineral quality of the wine and heavy-handed honeysuckle flavors are way more reminiscent of a French Chenin Blanc than a South African one. Similarly, the acidity and the citrus characteristics are reminiscent of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that I reviewed earlier. Another thing I loved about this wine was the fact that it's unoaked - but that's a personal preference, as the characteristic smoky/oaky flavor typical of oaked whites just doesn't agree with my palate most of the time. Also the stone fruit and honey overtones of the palate are absolutely lovely, as is the creamy mouthfeel (indicative of malolactic fermentation, although I have no confirmation that the vineyard uses this process).
Pairing: This is another wine like the Starborough where it goes well with most light meals (or by itself!). As this is a creamier, sweeter Chenin Blanc, it tends to pair well with cream sauces and spicier food (this was the PERFECT wine to drink with the creamed spinach chicken with bacon that I cooked a few weeks ago - heavy cream with smoky bacon and sweet honey wine = heaven!). I also dream of the day that I can make a lovely potato soup and drink this wine, because I think it would be an absolutely divine pairing.
Wine: The Royal Old Vines Steen Chenin Blanc, Vintage 2009
Price: $10 and $12, respectively
Purchased: The Wine Source, Baltimore MD & The Curious Grape, Arlington VA