The Mbali Chenin Blanc Viognier 2016 is a $4.99 Trader Joe’s import exclusive, 79% Chenin Blanc and 21% Viognier sourced from the Western Cape growing district of South Africa. Mbali is the Zulu word for flower. The flower on the label is a Protea, the national flower of South Africa. The Western Cape is by far the largest growing area in South Africa, it includes 27 sub-districts, such as Paarl, Stellenbosch, and Swartland. Chenin Blanc is a grape originally grown in the Loire Valley region of France. It is a very versatile grape and can be produced to be light and breezy, dry, semi-sweet or sweet, rich and bold and even makes a great Sparkling wine. It is THE White wine of South Africa, in S.A., they produce Chenin Blanc in a dry style, I imagine the Mbali is on the light and breezy side, but South Africa also produces age-worthy Chenin that has an excellent reputation. Viognier is another grape originally from the south of France, it too is a versatile wine, making single varietal wines or used as an integral part of white wine blends, it is one of the rare White grapes that is sometimes used in Red wine blends. The alcohol content is 13.%.
The color is a very pale butter yellow with a hint of green. The nose is bright and sunny, lemons, peach, pear, apple, a little tart grapefruit, lime, and a floral edge. This is a light to medium-boded wine, easy to drink, but with a little complexity. It starts with melon, dried peach, pear, and Golden Delicious apple. The mid-palate has a bit of a change of direction with a hint of minerality, kiwi, and lemon cream. The acidity is slightly subdued, it will still work with food, salads, cold pasta and shrimp. The finish mirrors the mid-palate and lasts a respectable amount of time.
The Mbali Chenin Blanc Viognier 2016 is a solid 5 buck summer White blend (actually in the US if a grape comprises at least 75% of the blend it can be called a single varietal and they don’t have to tell you what the other 25% is, though they almost always do). It is not the same old, same old, the flavor profile offers a change of pace from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, without out being too different. When a wine sells for $4.99, I always think, “there has to be something wrong with this wine”, but it’s fine. It does what it is supposed to do, be a fun, Tuesday night, inexpensive sipping wine.