AA Badenhorst makes wines so unique that they defy any preconceptions.
AA Badenhorst Family White Blend $48 South Africa has always been a funny region. It's generally perceived as a New World region by most, but chat with any South African winemaker and the first thing they'll point out is that they were planting grapes in 1659 (they always know the exact year) so they're in fact older than many Old World regions. But at least in our market many of their wines have settled at the lower price point of the market and while they're no doubt very good value, they're not exactly pulse-thumping. This wine is pulse-thumping. It comes from the Swartland region, which is less heralded than the more prominent regions like Stellenbosch and Paarl, but has of late attracted a new cadre of winemakers that, like the industry itself, are equal parts young turks and old souls. People like Adi Badenhorst who spent his early years working at such rarified spots as Chateau Angelus in Bordeaux and then spent nine years at South Africa's well regarded Rustenberg. But at AA Badenhorst he makes all the calls and judging by this wine, he makes them all correctly. There's two things that stand out (three if you count the gorgeous label): 1. This wine is very close to what would be called "natural." They're low in sulfur, use the whole bunch (i.e. no stems are removed), and a minimum of intervention. Among wine folk natural wines are all the rage, but among everyday wine drinkers they seem to inspire a lot of head scratching and muttering. This is not one of those natural wines—it's vibrant and racy and oh-so-pure, but it still maintains a beautiful nose and colour that the casual wine drinker expects. 2. Wine nerds also love Chenin Blanc and it's likewise a passion that the general wine drinker has yet to adopt. This wine is a crazy blend of grapes (from old vines), but its undeniable beating heart is Chenin and it's so pure and uplifting in this incarnation that it will make Chenin converts out of all who cross its path. The rub is that it's pricey, but if it's any consolation think of it as an affordable Burgundy.