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Wines with Steen grapes

by | Oct 13, 2016

Steen is a white skinned grapes variety which is largely grown in South Africa. It falls in grape species of Vitis Vinifera.


Around the southern coast of Cape of Good Hope, warm and dry climate in the highlands and area within few miles from ocean are best suited for the vineyards.

Steen grapes are used in making some remarkable wines like Vouvray, Coteaux du Layon or Sparkling Saumur. Steen goes with various names like Chenin Blanc, Pineau de la Loire and Pinot Blanco etc.

Steen traces its origin from the Loire valley of France, this variety of grape was shipped to South Africa around 1650s.

Wine grape varieties

Steen is the offspring of Jura wine grapes Savagnin which is a white wine grape with green-skinned berries.

The climate of South Africa is pleasant for growing semi-dry or dry wines also late harvest botrytis and sparkling wire are in huge demand.

You can get a lot of flavours in Steen wines like Apple, Peach or pear with an alcohol content ranging from 12% to 14%.

History of Steen grape

Chenin Blanc a synonym for Steen is believed to have a long history, dating back to the 9th century.  This grape variety then travelled to the Loire valley where it was named Chenin Blanc after Mont Chenin.

Later on in the year 1655 Chenin Blanc was brought to South Africa, where it was popularly called Steen. There were conflicts of opinion about the origin of Steen grape and the word Steen itself.

Arguments were made that the word Steen is very similar to German word Stein which is also a wine and the quality of both wines are same so Steen should have a German origin.

But later on with the advancement in technology of DNA testing it was proved that the parent variety of Steen is from the Jura region of France.

Viticulture and winemaking of Steen grape

The vines of Steen are very high-yielding but the young vines that have been trellised should be protected from overproduction. Bunches of Steen grapes are pyramidal; the stems are short and tough.

The leaves are three-lobed of medium-small size. The berries are small, elongated and oval with a thin skin and are relatively juicy. The viticulture in South Africa has developed tremendously in recent years by progress in training and understanding of soil and climate.

With the advancement in viticulture planning correct decisions are taken to use appropriate rootstock, vines spacing and trellising system.

The climate of the region decides that weather the wines will be dry or sweet. The quality of wine produced by Steen depends on the harvest duration.

If the grapes are harvested before they ripen, the amount of acidity in the wine will be more and if it is harvested at too high of a yield the wine will lose the distinctive flavour, for which it is popular. So it should be properly balanced between acidity and sugar.

Characteristics of Steen

With age Steen wines made from noble will have flavour of peach and honey that develop into quince and barley sugar. In South Africa Steen wines exhibit the flavour of tropical fruits like banana, pear, guava and pineapple.

It possesses the aromas like caramel, saffron, orange blossom, honey comb, burnt sugar, grass, etc. The acidity level in Steen wines are medium-high and high.

Many times it is blended with Chardonnay and local grape to make sparkling wine. It should be served at cool temperature of 8 ºC. Some very famous French Steen wine is highly acidic and has oily texture.

The taste of Steen wines can differ depending on the region, age or wineries. Steen grapes can be used to make a wide range of wines like sparkling wine to dessert wines.

 Food pairing with Steen wine

Steen wines have predominantly sweet flavor so it can be a paired with cheese items like camembert. The dry style wine can be paired with light dishes like salad.
The semi-dry style can go with yoghurt or cheddar. Mushroom, cauliflower, squash, corn or cabbage are other eatables that can pair with Steen wine.


Michael Bredahl

Michael Bredahl

Wine Writer

Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂

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