A coalition of premium South African wine producers is preparing a fresh promotional push on Chenin Blanc in a bid to cement the grape variety as synonymous with the country.

The new board for the Chenin Blanc Association, which comprises nearly a dozen premium wine producers in South Africa, including Kleine Zalze, The Company of Wine People and Ken Forrester Wines, has said that it plans to be more proactive in promoting the grape variety to consumers.

The coalition is planning more dinners and themed tastings for both consumers and trade professionals than in the past. A high-profile promotion is also being planned for October this year, although the group refused to give specific details when asked by just-drinks at this week's London International Wine Fair (LIWF).

"What we want to do is create noise around it and engage consumers in new kinds of environments," said Ross Sleet, sales and marketing manager for Kleine Zalze.

Some South African wine producers have been ripping out Chenin Blanc vines in favour of other grape varieties, particularly Sauvignon Blanc, which offer better short-term returns due to higher consumer demand.

The Chenin Blanc Association's aim is to display the quality of premium Chenin Blanc and forge a concrete link between Chenin Blanc and South Africa in the minds of consumers. 

"If we can get to the stage where it's an automatic assumption for consumers - that's where the battle lines are," Sleet told just-drinks.

"We are not people who say 'I only want to talk about my wines'. We realise that we can get better results if we work together - a rising tide raises all ships."

The Association will focus only on Chenin Blanc wines priced at above GBP5.99 in the UK and Sleet admitted that South Africa has some work to do to build the quality image of the grape variety.

"Chenin has always been at the GBP3.99 level. We must get away from this. I don't believe that consumers who buy wine at GBP3.99 will switch to GBP19.99 wines, but you can get [them] to a higher point."

Funding remains a potential barrier for the group in its promotional efforts, however. "There's not a huge amount of money. We're all chipping in here and there from our own budgets," said Sleet.

Chenin Blanc is originally from France's Loire Valley, although South African producers argue that South Africa's climate offers a more suitable home for the grape variety. 

The Chenin Blanc Association is currently running a competition to find the oldest Chenin vines in South Africa. So far, the oldest found is from 1952, in Durbanville.

The South African wine category in the UK rose by 23.6% in value and 22% in volume during 2008, according to Nielsen figures.