Saturday, March 22, 2014



Michela in the Chenin Blanc vineyard

“When we came to see Slent (now Ayama Wines) the first time in January 2004, previous owner Chris New opened a bottle of Chenin Blanc from their own grapes for us at 10 in the morning, which blew me away.

Although I had tasted some French and South African Chenin Blanc before, this had special flavours and I immediately thought the varietal had great potential in this area, ” says Michela Dalpiaz, co-owner at Ayama Wines in the Voor-Paardeberg ward of Paarl, South Africa.

Ayama was planted with 18 ha Chenin Blanc vines between 1988-1992 which is being nurtured with love by Michela’s husband and viticulturalist Attilio. “We are doing our utmost to save the genetic capital of these older vines and as I believe that this varietal is South Africa’s flagship White, we are planning to expand our range in the future. We planted another two hectares of Chenin Bush Vine in 2012 and we are busy experimenting with different practises in different blocks to see the effect in the wines,” comments Michela.

One of the many new things which this passionate Italian couple had to learn on their arrival in South Africa, was to manage the canopy of the Chenin Blanc as sunburn is never an issue in cold and wet Friuli, where they are originally from. “The first year we were very surprised when we saw the burn damage, and only after being around for some time, did we realise what we had to do to produce the grapes we really wanted and that some sunburn is “normal” here, ” they laugh.

Ayama currently produces two award-winning Chenin Blancs, one under Ayama “regular” label and a more serious interpretation, the recently released Baboons’ Swing Chenin Blanc. The Ayama Chenin Blanc 2012 (Cellar Door Price: R52) is easy-drinking , fruity and soft and will suit any occasion but the Baboons’ Swing 2013 (Cellar Door Price: R69) was harvested at 26 balling and left on the lees for 4 months to produce a full-bodied richer wine with a long, soft finish.

Both wines are popular in the export market and makes up 60 000 bottles of a total production of 300 000 over a range of 16 wines. Listings are starting to come through locally and Michela is a partisan supporter of this “underdog” grape, which according to her has not received the public acclaim it deserves in South Africa and abroad.

When asked about the two styles, Michela just laughs and says there’s more to come! “I would love to produce a Noble Late Harvest and a barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc as well. Watch this space!

Caption 1: Michela Dalpiaz in her favourite Chenin Blanc block at Ayama Wines.

Caption 2: Ayama Wines produce two Chenin Blancs, the Ayama Chenin Blanc and the Baboon’s