Two research groups at Stellenbosch University have combined forces to obtain an overview of the sensory and chemical profiles of old-vine Chenin blanc wines. At the Institute for Wine Biotechnology, Department of Viticulture and Oenology, the focus is on the sensory characterisation of the genre, with specific emphasis on aroma and mouth-feel attributes. The research team (Valeria Panzeri, MSc-graduate Renée Crous, and Hélène Nieuwoudt) found that the distinguishing features of the wines are anchored by their outstanding complexity of aromas and mouth-feel attributes such as concentration, body, complexity, integration, balance, and length. At the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science, analytical chemists André de Villiers, Andreas Tredoux and PhD student Sithandile Ngxangxa, have applied state-of-the-art gas chromatography-mass spectrometric (GC-MS) and comprehensive 2-dimensional GC×GC-MS for the detailed investigation of old-vine Chenin blanc volatiles. Preliminary chemical results show that the old-vine wines can be distinguished from younger vineyard wines based on their volatile composition, thereby providing the first comprehensive chemical profiles of this important South African wine product category.
The question is frequently asked by industry whether the old-vine Chenins are indeed different from Chenins produced from younger vines. Our sensory and chemical results indicate and support a positive answer to this much-debated question. We further plan to investigate correlations between the chemistry and sensory profiles; work at the two research groups on this topic is currently underway.