One of the world’s most heat-tolerant and versatile cultivars, it is South Africa’s signature white wine grape. The country has more Chenin vines planted than the rest of the world combined, but Chenin’s birthplace is the Loire in France.
The right to hold the Chenin Blanc International Congress has been granted by the City of Angers. It was a key driving force behind the first such conference, held in Angers in 2019.
This year’s event that will explore the role of the grape in a fast-changing environment, is expected to draw wine academics, climatologists, regenerative viticultural specialists, winemakers, agro-economists, trend analysts and marketers from across the world. Its confirmation follows extensive collaboration between wine and academic bodies in France and South Africa.
It is being hosted jointly by the Academie du Chenin and Destination Angers together with South Africa’s Chenin Blanc Association and Stellenbosch University. Several other wine bodies are also involved as partners, with support also being extended by South African Tourism.
Entitled Chenin: Revealer of Place, the congress will be presented from November 1 to 3 in hybridised format with in-person and digital tickets available. The three-day event at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), will include a wide range of academic and general interest presentations as well as vineyard visits. Delegates will be able to choose from a range of package options.
The accent will be on sustainability and innovation, with speakers and workshops focusing on three key areas: the full genome sequencing of the Chenin Blanc grape varietal to establish a scientific base for intra-varietal clone diversity; winegrowing and winemaking in the face of climate change; and responding to consumer tastes and lifestyle trends in a variety of cultures.
Amongst the big-name presenters will be Dr Jamie Goode, a widely published and award-winning wine writer from the UK, who also holds a PhD in plant biology, and Rosa Kruger, one of South Africa’s foremost viticulturists and a high-profile advocate of the Old Vine Project. They will be discussing new developments in regenerative viticulture.
Another major drawcard will be French neuroscientist Dr Gabriel Lepousez, an international expert on sensory perception and brain plasticity. He holds a research position at the Pasteur Institute and specialises on the brain circuits involved in sensory perception, memory and emotions. He also runs neuro-sensory training for wine professionals to understand how the brain works during wine tasting.
Many South African academics will also be presenting papers.
Said co-founder and chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association, Ken Forrester: “It is a major coup for the South African wine industry to host a conference of this calibre. It acknowledges the central role this country has had in elevating the global reputation and awareness of Chenin. It also offers an outstanding forum for members of our own wine and hospitality sectors to exchange ideas with other international experts in their fields.”
As many as 50 delegates are expected from France alone. In addition to several other countries in Western and Eastern Europe, presenters and visitors will be flying in from Australia and the US.
Forrester confirmed that an updated version of South Africa’s Chenin Blanc aroma wheel would be unveiled at the conference, where Zulu, Xhosa and Shona translations would also be launched.
“Everything about this conference is intended to highlight Chenin’s relevance and accessibility in the changing world of wine.”
All presentations will be available in both English and French. South African wine body Winetech, involved in research, knowledge transfer and development, will be publishing all papers presented at the conference.
Photo: Mev Kirsten Vineyard, the oldest Chenin block in South Afriica / Photo credit: Hanneke Schutte