« As well as a number of local producers, journalists etc. the Congrès attracted a strong contingent from South Africa with some 45 people making the long trip to Angers from the tip of Southern Africa.

South Africans attending included Ken Forrester – Mr Chenin Blanc SA, Ina Smith of the Chenin Blanc Association, Irina von Holdt (Old Vines Wine Cellars), André Morgenthal (Old Vines Wine Cellars), Marco Ventrella (KWV) and Niel Groenewald (Distell), Hélène Niewouldt (University of Stellenbosch) and Cathy van Zyl MW (writer).

Jim Budd

The Congress got off to a flying start with the announcement by the first keynote speaker Jean-Michel Boursiquot that Chenin Blanc’s missing parent has been identified. One of Chenin’s parents has been identified for some time: the Jura grape Savagnin. Boursiquot confirmed that Sauvignonasse is the absentee parent. It is not clear whether the the absentee or ‘runaway’ parent is male or female……

I guess the suspicion must be that it was the male, who proved difficult to trace…..!

The Congress covered a number of subjects including the history of Chenin Blanc, its plantings in both France and South Africa, the effects of climate change – South Africa for the moment is more likely to be more impacted than the Loire – and a fascinating survey of the take up of sugar during véraisonover the last five vintages – 2014 to 2018 – to be covered next week.

Chenin Blanc surfaces declined in France from 17,000 hectares in 1958 to 10,090 hectares in 2016, showing a slight recovery from a low of 9,000 hectares in 1998. South Africa continues to have the world’s largest plantings of Chenin Blanc, although here, too, the area has declined from around 30,000 hectares at the end of the 20th Century when it accounted for some 35% of all South African plantings to 17,242 hectares in 2018 – 18.5% of all plantings.

There were many fascinating presentations during the Congress, which I will cover in more detail in later posts. Over the three days there was the opportunity to taste some 355 different Chenins mainly from the Loire but also 37 from South Africa, one from Thailand and one from Switzerland.

In addition the benefit of a conference like this is the deepening of ties and the exchanges between Chenin Blanc producers in the Loire and South Africa. The next edition of this Congrès will be held in South Africa in 2021. The date has yet to be fixed but it may well tie in with the Cape Wine Show 15th-17th September. »

In terms of the organization and logistics proper, I noticed some small faults or even false notes (small glasses at the gala evening for example) but this is also the lot of any new event and, overall, I think that everyone will have kept a very positive image of this first congress.

On the background, I found the two days I participated in (Tuesday and Wednesday) very rich and informative but also sometimes... frustrating. The content was so rich during the same session that some topics could not be explored further.The tight timing for so many quality speakers gave a very fast pace to the projection of some slides sometimes giving the impression of moving quickly to the next topic. But it also proves that there was material and that this congress therefore found its place.

Christophe ANDRIEU (Cavistes et Sommeliers)

The Board Members of the Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa after discussing the Congress

On the congress, all efforts were made to achieve the latter in the best way possible.
The interesting lectures were numerous, almost too numerous.
It is difficult to go through all this content but the numerous information will make it possible to pick up several themes.


Perhaps, targeting only lectures that speak of the chenin and allowing more time to master classes would really meet the South Africans in their specificity. This would allow to convene didactic experiments, content and taste knowledge on wines. Making the discovery of 300 wines in 3 days is a lot but living a taste experience marks the spirits.


I was seduced by the trips to the vineyard which certainly required a lot of preparation, there was just a little water missing on the first day…(Savennières)


In my humble opinion, the grape variety has potential and that is no longer to be proven. The arrival of operators from South Africa shows their willingness to participate in future developments and their desire to share their experience.Their vision of the market has come to remind us how globalized it is and how far the channel still has to go to become an even more international, universal grape variety? global?

Christelle ZAMORA (RVI - Bon Bec Bohème)


© Destination Angers. 2018