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Villiera – and owner Jeff Grier – has specialised in chenin for years and they have a high proportion of old-vine chenin, including in our blend. It’s very much a family affair – the new generation is now involved too – with a peerless track record for social and environmental responsibility, producing a wide and super-reliable range, for which they are highly respected in the industry.
Product Code: SA15241
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Villiera is a large, family-owned estate on the borders of the Paarl and Stellenbosch wine regions in South Africa. The estate takes its name from the Villiers family who were former property owners. Since 1983, Villiera has been run by the Grier family; cousins Simon and Jeff Grier are in charge of viticulture and winemaking respectively and have steadily raised the quality of the wines. Cathy Grier Brewer, Jeff’s sister, is in charge of sales and marketing and is a regular visitor to Society tastings. The 180 hectares of vineyards are split into roughly 40% red and 60% white grapes, with different varieties being planted as consumer tastes change. There are trials for the conversion to organic viticulture as well as plans to improve the drip irrigation system, but the farm has already been insecticide free since the early 2000s, and uses a flock of Peking duck as natural pest control. The cellars and winery were first built in the 1940s but they have expanded dramatically since the Griers took over in the 1980s.The family quietly gives a large percentage of its land over to conservation as part of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative as well as planting thousands of indigenous trees and maintaining a wildlife sanctuary on site. In partnership with The Pebbles Project – a charity which helps children with special needs, which has had a base on the farm for some years – Villiera also launched its own crèche in 2013.Overall the Grier family’s approach is one of understatement as exemplified by their Down to Earth house wines which are accessible blends of ripe fruit with distinct varietal character. The mantra here is ‘turn the ordinary into an occasion’ which the Griers certainly manage to deliver through extraordinary wines at unremarkable prices. They make a wide range of wines across a broad price spectrum, including some of the Cape’s most popular bubbly.
South Africa is undoubtedly one of the world's most dynamic wine producers. Established winemakers re-emerged onto the international scene in the early 1990s, following the demise of the apartheid era, and new wines, wineries, highly qualified winemakers, and even new regions have appeared steadily ever since. This makes South Africa more exciting than ever, but more complicated, too. Most South African wines are varietally labelled - a key factor in any buying decision. Styles vary of course, and our notes aim to clarify this, but you will probably already know whether you like sauvignon blanc (now among the world's best), chardonnay, riesling, syrah, pinot noir, or cabernet.South Africa's most famous grapes - white chenin blanc and red pinotage - will be less familiar unless you are already a convert. South African chenins are quite different from those in the Loire - almost always dry, but ripe and full of flavour (often with the complexity that comes from the increasingly sought-after old-vine fruit and the use of oak). Pinotage, a South African creation, is for many a love-it-or-hate-it grape. Pinotage's 'parents' are pinot noir, which imparts its strawberry aromas and lovely texture in young wines, and more complex, farmyard characteristics in more mature examples, and cinsault, the southern French grape, which adds spice and body. It was developed in South Africa in 1926. Shiraz is now making a name for itself in South Africa with some superb examples bottled varietally and showing characteristics that often places it between the plush New World style pioneered by Australia and classic Rhône balance and elegance.More significant in South Africa than much of the New World (notably New Zealand and Chile) are blends, which make selection more complicated, as the style of the wine is less easy to anticipate. As in Australia and California, however, many of the best wines here are blends - a sign of maturity in the industry. Bordeaux blends were favoured initially but there are increasing numbers of Rhône and southern French influenced blends, including some eclectic mixes, many of which are among South Africa’s best wines.The RegionsThe vineyards of South Africa are at a latitude of about 35o south, with hot, dry Mediterranean-type summers tempered by oceanic influences in the south, particularly the very cold Benguela Current. Much of the country is mountainous or hilly with a multitude of terroirs for winemakers to play with. Soils are ancient and complex, and many and varied from region to region, and even vineyard to vineyard. Rainfall is very varied from one area to another, largely depending which side of a mountain or range a vineyard lies on, and in some parts irrigation is essential. South Africa’s rigorous Wine Of Origin scheme demarcates vineyard areas, including some single vineyards, and guarantees the geographical source of the wine much like the old French appellation contrôllée system recently renamed AOP, though there are no controls on yields and grape varieties as there are in France..Bordeaux-style blends are one of the Stellenbosch region's great strengths. Wines such as Kanonkop's Paul Sauer, Meerlust's Rubicon and Warwick's Trilogy are South African icons, produced over many years, and with proven ageing capacity. The striking Simonsberg mountain names the ward (or area) most highly sought after for these reds, but Stellenbosch produces a wide range of wine styles, from excellent chenin blancs and sauvignons to robust pinotage and Cape Blends.Paarl is its less-well-known neighbour, also warm, and best known for its robust but smooth reds. Franschhoek is understandably one of the most-visited towns in the Cape (with lots of French Huguenot history and some of the best restaurants in the region). It has a number of famous producers, most notably Boekenhoutskloof, but most do not produce exclusively from Franschhoek fruit. Cape Chamonix is an exception we rate highly, producing a wide range of wine styles from bubbly to cabernet franc led red blend Troika.The generally warmer Swartland region has been at the forefront of the development of Rhône varietals in South Africa, led by stars such as Eben Sadie, as well as home to some of the best old chenin blanc vines. Further north, and much cooler is Citrusdal, where fresher styles are produced and chenin blanc can achieve real finesse.The Cape peninsula, to the south of Cape Town itself, is home to Constantia, known for its cooler climate thanks to the influence of the two oceans that almost circle it. Here, sauvignon blanc and the Bordeaux grapes predominate, but there are lovely examples of aromatic varieties too, notably Klein Constantia's elegant riesling and its wonderful sweet muscat Vin de Constance, and the vibrant sauvignon blancs from Cape Point vineyards to the south. Rhône varietals are successful new additions.Elgin, en route to Hermanus, is another very cool region, very much up-and-coming for sauvignon blanc, as is Elim, which is even further south and the source of our former Exhibition Sauvignon. Robertson is almost due north of Elim, but way inland and far hotter. A small number of family producers manage to make excellent sauvignon here, too, but it is also a good source of chardonnay, increasingly pinot noir, and elegantly styled pinotage and Rhône varietals, not forgetting the excellent fortified muskadels which are unique to the Cape.The most important factor in deciding whether or not to buy is often the producer's name. This is easily achieved when some of the grandest 'old' names, such as Meerlust, Hamilton Russell, Kanonkop, and Klein Constantia, still rank among the country's best producers. Where it gets trickier is when the winery is new, has no track record, or the winemaker is not a household name.
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"This is one of the most delicious “Society” wines ever. Just about to order more only to find it is out of stock! Drat. "
Prof Veronica Hope Hailey (06-Aug-2019)
"I really enjoyed this Chenin Blanc. I found it refreshingly crisp and with a nice mineral finish. Would definitely buy again."
Dr David Bryson (05-Aug-2019)
"This was a very nice wine. It was quite rich for a Chenin Blanc I thought, but lovely. Will definitely reorder this one."
Dr Max Fincher (17-Jul-2019)
"Pretty good, for the price I think it is excellent, good for a drinks party."
Mr Patrick Aschan (09-Jul-2019)
"Refreshing crisp almost softened Granny Smith apple like acidity. Would re-order."
Mr Nathan Whittamore (25-May-2019)
"The society do many really good whites and this is no exception. South African Chenin can be such a joy. Lovely pale yellow with a slight green tinge. Great mineral finish. Easily drinkable on its own or with food. "
Mr Tom Rodger (14-Apr-2019)
"When the South Africans get Chenin right it's fantastic, and this is one. It's tangy but not blousy or sweet. in fact it's everything you want in an easy drinking wine. The french are unsurpassed at the top end of Chenin in Savenniere and with Loire pudding wines but they have nothing to compete at this price point, It's a real treat."
Mr James Brown (07-Mar-2019)
"Smooth and crisp with a gentle cooking apple-like acidity. Absolutely delightful"
Mr Philip Stirups (30-Jan-2019)
"Chenin Blanc is one of my favourite whites and this is a lovely example. Light and refreshing. Went perfectly with our Chinese meal."
Mr Jonathan M Potts (17-Dec-2018)
The Scotsman (7th Sep 2019)
"Star buy: Brilliant
value chenin blanc made by the Grier family at Villiera winery - from old (some
over 30 years) bush vines. Our tasters loved its zesty, succulent citric fruit,
laser-like precision and freshness. - Rose Murray Brown"
Yorkshire Post (27th Jul 2019)
"My favourites from
The Wine Society include many of its own-label Society wines such as The
Society's Claret 2017 and [this] which hit the mark for both flavour and price. - Christine Austin"
"Warm honey, melon and tropical fruit on the nose with a rich and succulent palate
Mr Hugo Allen-Stevens (27-Dec-2017)
"Distinctive with quite a 'mineral' note to it. Not what I expected but a very clean wine and I will order a second bottle to confirm if this has repeat potential"
Mr Roger Godfrey (26-Nov-2017)
"An excellent drinking wine to match a GBP 10- 12 unoaked white burgundy. Exceptional value and somewhat of a surprise package for a Chenin Blanc."
Mr Tim Chater (25-Oct-2017)
"As far as Cape Chenin Blanc goes, this is a winner for the price. Lovely hit of guava on the palate, crisp and fresh. Have tried it with various dishes - including a chicken curry - and it held very well. Also good on its own."
Mr Andre Hugo (25-Oct-2017)
"Good value wine. I wouldn't normally have chosen a Chenin Blanc but glad I did. Excellent with just a hint of oak - good for everyday drinking. Be careful not to over chill. Will be ordering it again."
Mr Matt Wilks (23-Oct-2017)
"This is an excellent every-day,easy drinking example of South African white wine.
I don't know why I haven't found this before!"
Mr A I A Lyle (13-Oct-2017)
"Crisp and fresh. Very lemony. A little too much citrus for me."
Ms Vicki Worsley (20-Jan-2017)
"Really good and versatile with food. Went well with smoked fish pie. And had the weight to deal with lamb balti the following night. Surprised how well it went with the curry actually . Definitely buy more of this stuff."
Mr Adrian French (14-May-2016)
"A decent Chenin Blanc which is just off bone dry and quite earthy with a slightly acidic finish, a good aperitif and perfect for fish. This wine is slightly more complex than many Chenin Blancs, interesting and fair value."
Mr Douglas Tonks (05-Dec-2015)
"Clean lemony/Granny Smith, then cashew nut richness that has a cinnamon after taste. On the end of the finish there are some earthy and saline notes. Clean, satisfying and interesting. Very good value."
Mr Anthony O'Halloran (15-Oct-2015)
"Chenin Blanc is always great as an aperitif and this wine is no exception. Very good value and most enjoyable."
Mr Brian Kain (17-Aug-2013)
The Wine Gang (Mar 2013)
"Typically restrained, lemon-custard Chenin nose, delicate, pithy lemon, herb and green olive flavours and a tight, fairly high-acid finish. The fruit is all estate-grown by the Grier family at Villiera Wines and half of it is from old bush vines.Goes with: Salads & Vegetable dishes, Fish & Seafood, Aperitif wine."
"I have taken a liking to chenin blanc wines recently and I think this is a rather good example of how good the grape can be at a very good price. It's not bone dry but neither is it all medium sweet. It has just the right balance to be good with or without food."
Mr Alan Wells (09-Feb-2011)
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