Chenin is the new twinkling white on the block. Margaret River Chenin is dry, crisp and mineral - but incredibly diverse.
In Margaret River, there have been two prevailing influences on the Chenin renaissance.
The first being the veteran winemakers who lived through the Chenin waves of the late 1960s and then the 80s and 90s when sweeter styles were on trend. They’ve seen the potential of the fruit, and are making it shine in a fresh new way.
Marri Wood Park owner Julian Wright planted his Chenin blocks at the Yallingup winery in the early 1990s. An undesirable varietal at the time, Julian was determined to create a ‘bone dry barrel fermented age-worthy Chenin that could make him famous’. The 30+ year old vines and distinctive form of viticulture here at Marri Wood Park are shining through today’s Chenin releases, and the aged bottles are building exceptional character.
The second driving force behind Chenin’s moment in the sun are the young guns, the new winemakers on the block who were buying the then untrendy grapes (sometimes getting them for free) and making their mark on the industry with a fresh new take on the traditional French varietal.
You can’t talk about Chenin in Margaret River without discussing Nic Peterkin. As head winemaker at Marri Wood Park, and an established winery and vineyard owner in his own right, his passion for the variety has created a swell of excitement at home in Western Australia and abroad.
Nic Peterkin is the son of one of Margaret River's great wine pioneers, Dr Mike Peterkin. Mike planted the family’s Pierro vineyard in the golden zone of Wilyabrup in 1980, and he did so in a fairly unconventional way. That unconventional attitude has more than rubbed off on his son, who’s inaugural wines under his L.A.S wine label in 2013 included a biodynamic Chenin Blanc.
So, next time you find yourself in Margaret River, why not take yourself on a little Chenin trail and try some site-specific expressions and new interpretations of this classic French white wine.
First up, come see us at Marri Wood Park (obviously). Our welcoming Cellar Door is the perfect place to taste the 2021 Chenin Blanc. An exciting aromatic nose of pineapple, lemon, pavlova and passionfruit. The palate is energetic and populated by layers upon layers of ripe orchard fruit with fine, chalky phenolics, and a seam of brine-y acidity that courses through the long finish. While you’re around Yallingup, be sure to stop by Windows Estate and Goon Tycoons.
The Tycoon’s Smoking Gun Chenin is a flinty funky sulphidic 100% barrel fermented single vineyard Chenin Blanc. A gutsy wine by Harry Baker and well worth a try. The team at Windows are the only others in the region, alongside Marri Wood Park, to have an aged Chenin Blanc on tasting so be sure to stop in and have a sip (and try the sparkling Chenin while you are there).
Then, further south, down Caves Road, pop by Devaleski Wines, Pierro & off Bussell Highway, Hay Shed Hill.
At Devaleski Wines you have the opportunity to try the 2020 and 2021 Chenins side by side, as Debi explains how the climate differences in two consecutive years affect the expression of the wine. Hay Shed Hill’s KP Naturally is a natural ferment Chenin Blanc full of Granny Smith apple and quince. The dry and fresh wine is spontaneous with natural yeast, no fining, no filtration or stabilisation. Pierro’s 2020 Fire Gully Vintage Sparkling Chenin was hand-picked from the original 1988 plantings in Willyabrup. This must-try vintage sparkling is made using the traditional method, with fermentation occurring in bottle and maturation occurring on lees in bottle for over 12-months. Flavours include citrus blossom, green apple, grapefruit, toast and meringue.
The last stops before you head off must be Dormilona in Margaret River and Churchview Estate as you head back northward.
Dormilona Wines’ owner and head winemaker Jo Perry is one of the region’s Young Guns of Wine and absolute pioneer of the varietal. The Clayface Chenin Blanc is a standout - made purely in amphora, the hand harvested hand bottled tutti fruiti natural fermentation is a must try. Be sure to book a tasting (with Jo herself) at the Margaret River winery to explore the three Chenin’s in the range. At Churchview you’ll taste the 2016 Sparkling Chenin and 2019 limited release Wild Fermented Chenin Blanc. The 2019 is a great interpretation of a Vouvray; subtle pears and spice with a clean, rich fruit and a little spiced palate.
This is just a taste of some of the exceptional Chenin’s of the Margaret River Wine Region. Additional wineries offering the Chenin variety in their line-up include Wines of Merritt, Cape Grace, Woody Nook, Aravina Estate, Stormflower, Clairault, Windance, Redgate and Xanadu.