Tag Archives: chenin blanc

T-time with Ken Forrester

It’s not every day that one gets the opportunity to be in the company of an iconic winemaker such as Ken Forrester, and therefore I was quite elated at the invitation to spend the afternoon with a group of journalists having ‘T’ at the Mount Nelson.

The story of the Ken Forrester ‘T’ is an interesting one, as this Noble Late Harvest came about as a birthday gift for Ken’s wife Teresa in 1998. Sadly the first vintage of the wine was never produced.

The current vintage, the 2009 T Noble Late Harvest, therefore marks a decade of the wine’s existence and was the reason for celebrating at the Mount Nelson.

The ‘T’ is produced from a single vineyard Chenin blanc block on the estate and is very labour intensive to produce as many successive pickings (except for the 2001 and 2009 vintage) are done throughout the harvesting period. Ken notes that the picking starts at the end of February “when the botrytis starts to form a ring in the center of the grape” and has continued as late as the end of May in previous vintages.

The production techniques that are used to produce the ‘T’ are very intricate and labour intensive as only 40kg of grapes are pressed at a time in a 400kg press. The wine then gets placed in a large 4000 liter barrel where it is allowed to start fermenting before being showered with dry ice.

The start-stop process of fermentation allows for layers of complex flavours to form as a result of the layers of multiple wild yeast at work. This tireless process does not always yield positive results as it is a bit of gamble, and as Ken muses “this is the kind of wine, that if you were to make it for a boss, you’d get fired as it’s an all or nothing wine”.

After understanding the process of production in the wine, we were all treated to a veritical tasting of six vintages of the ‘T’ from 2000 to 2009.

We started our tasting with the youngest of the lot and worked our way back:

2009 Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest

Alcohol % – 12
Total Acidity (g/l) – 7.7
Residual Sugar (g/l) – 135.8
Ph – 3.61

On the 2009 vintage Ken noted that it (along with the 2001) was a great year for Chenin Blanc in South Africa with favourable conditions for botrytis similar to that of the Loire Valley.

The 2009 was very fresh with guava and baked apple characteristics.

2008 Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest

Alcohol % – 11
Total Acidity (g/l) – 7.8
Residual Sugar (g/l) – 154
Ph – 3.54

The 2008 vintage was never released due to limited quantity.

The flavour profile was very similar to the 2009 with the bit of bottle aging aiding in the wine opening up with a fuller fruit component. With characteristics of honey, apricot and baked apple.

2006 Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest

Alcohol % – 13
Total Acidity (g/l) – 7.8
Residual Sugar (g/l) – 137
Ph – 3.68

The 2006 vintage had started to develop the deeper honey colour and was quite a developed wine, though it had no cloying or stickiness.

The bouquet was one of biscuits, caramel and vanilla with the taste resembling that of ruby grapefruit, with the sweetness and acidity in balance.

2005 Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest

Alcohol % – 13
Total Acidity (g/l) – 7.8
Residual Sugar (g/l) – 137
Ph – 3.68

The 2005 vintage was beautifully fresh with a screaming acidity and the colour only just starting to set into a rust coloured hue. Ken admitted that the 2005 vintage was currently his favourite.

2001 Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest

Alcohol % – 13.51
Total Acidity (g/l) – 8.2
Residual Sugar (g/l) – 132.2
Ph – 3.53

The 2001 vintage was a perfect year for noble as their was an early onset of botrytis which resulted in only one picking of the single vineyard. The quality of botrytis was also similar to that found in the Loire which made this vintage a stand out year. The colour on the 2001 vintage was also much lighter than it’s younger 2005 and 2006 counterparts.

2000 Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest

Alcohol % – 13.2
Total Acidity (g/l) – 8.0
Residual Sugar (g/l) – 131.7
Ph – 3.53

The 2000 vintage was a very hot year which resulted in over ripe fruit and therefore a very sticky and sweet noble. The colour was also extremely dark on this vintage with the defining characteristics being treacle and molasses extract on the nose and burnt / caramelised apple on the pallet.

The distinguishing differences in each of the six vintages that we tasted just further proved the significance that varying vintage conditions have the wine that is produced, especially when the wine is made from a single vineyard.

The beauty of each bottle of wine is found in the fact that it is the photograph of a vintage.

This article was first published as a blog post on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.