Ken Forrester’s Dirty Little Secret

She lives high up on top of the Piekenierskloof Pass, a short distance from the West Coast Road that runs all the way up to Namibia.

As the decades have passed, she has contemplated the world from her lofty perch – she lives on a farm which about 650m above sea level and about 20km from the ocean – and despite (or perhaps because of) the extreme day/night temperature variation of up to 25?, she has aged remarkably well. Now 51 years old, she is quite magnificent.

And she is Ken Forrester’s dirty little secret.

Ken stumbled upon her during a visit to the West Coast a few years back, and he was immediately entranced. It took him a while to screw up the courage to tell Teresa about her, and eventually he did. But only once he was certain that she was The One.

When Ken took Teresa up to the farm to meet her, she understood immediately why Ken had fallen for her, and she gave the romance her blessing. After all, Teresa understands what makes Ken tick, what entran-ces him, what drives him.

She knows that his quest, which commenced when they moved onto the farm Scholtzenhof way back in 1992, consumes him completely, and that he will not rest until he finds The One.

What else could the wife of the man who seeks the perfect chenin blanc vineyard do, other than support him in his quest?

Ecstatic that he had found The One, Ken knew instinctively what he had to do with the fruit of these venerable bush vines. He had to treat it with the respect that it deserves, and the best way to do that, would be to make the wine as naturally as possible.

Minimal intervention, wild yeast fermentation, minimal sulphur dioxide (50ppm), no settling agents, no acidification, unfiltered, unrefined and no cold stabilisation.

Ken avoided cold stabilisation by leaving the must on the skins and stalks for two weeks during the cold soak, which draws in the tannins to act as a natural stabiliser.

(The wine was naturally fermented in French oak barrels, 11 in total, all between five and eight years old, where malolactic fermentation happened naturally.)

And the result? In a word, spectacular.

Deep straw yellow in colour and with a luminous clarity, the nose is redolent of summer citrus fruit with honeyed overtones of dried apples and pears.

The palate is opulent, viscous, with warm summery fruit flavours and mouth filling acidity. The fruit complex is pure and persistent, and the palate cleans up beautifully for the next sip.

I’ve tasted pretty much every iteration of Ken’s drive to reach the pinnacle of chenin perfection, and although he won’t admit it himself, I believe he may well have done it this time.

The 2015 Dirty Little Secret is a wine of power, elegance and complexity, verily the winemaker’s Holy Grail.

Ken notes that he has literally put his ass on the line with this wine, because whereas the 2015 maiden vintage is a spectacular wine, the 2016 may well end up not being nearly as good.

For starters, the yield in 2016 is pitifully small by contrast, a measly three barrels, and because he refuses to in any way manipulate what happens in the cellar – he’s determined that the wine be allowed to express its site faithfully every year – he’s unclear about what the wine will be like when it is ready for release. But of one thing, he is absolutely certain: if the 2016 vintage, or any future vintage for that matter, does not make the cut – and the bar which he has set is sky-high – it will not be released.

So, if you want to experience chenin blanc nirvana, you might want to drop by the tasting room at Ken Forrester Vineyards, on Winery road, just off the R44 outside Somerset West, where you’ll be able to taste this nectar of the Gods.

* The 11 barrels translate into only 3 000 bottles, and at R950 you may well think it too expensive, but the only way to find out, is to go and taste the wine.