Chenin Blanc — A Guide to the Basics

Historically, Chenin Blanc has actually been most notoriously grown in the Loire Valley. That’s the appeal of Chenin Blanc: Its versatility is exceptional, and the range of designs in which it can be produced means that it appeals to a broad swath of preferences.

What is Chenin Blanc Wine?
Chenin Blanc is a white or shimmering, dry or sweet red wine produced from the grape range of the very same name. It’s usually redolent of fruit, brilliant with mouthwatering level of acidity, or– in the best cases– both. The appeal of Chenin Blanc has been growing for many years, specifically amongst so-called New World producers who are discovering interesting places from South Africa to California to grow it and imaginative, often forward-thinking methods to make it, whether through inventive work with the lees, experimenting with aging vessels, and more. No matter what design you’re thinking about, Chenin Blanc white wines use the potential to attract a variety of taste and texture choices.

Where Does Chenin Blanc Wine Come From?
The Chenin Blanc-focused appellations of Quarts de Chaume and Jasnières are likewise worth looking for, as are shimmering Crémants de Loire, in which Chenin Blanc frequently plays an important role. For quite some time, South African Chenin Blanc was understood by its Afrikaans name Steen, though more producers are using Chenin Blanc on their labels these days.

In South Africa, Chenin Blanc does especially well in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Swartland. In California, Chenin Blanc has a long (if not commonly well-known) history– try to find Chalone or Lang & Reed for outstanding examples. Significant ones can likewise be discovered in Washington State, Argentina (Catena Zapata produces a scrumptious one), and, to a lower extent, Australia.

Why Should You Drink Chenin Blanc Wine?
Chenin Blanc is among those grape ranges that appears to use something for everybody, yet has actually stayed stubbornly below the proverbial radar among a broad sweep of consumers. Sparkling Chenin Blanc– along with bubbly that integrates Chenin Blanc into the mix– often uses serious value for the cash: Crémant de Loire is food-friendly, ideal as an aperitif, and can be found for well under $30 … and typically far less.

At the table, Chenin Blanc’s naturally bright acidity makes it an exceptional foil for richer foods: That “zipiness” cuts through butter and cream and liven up whatever from flaky fish to poultry. Chenin Blanc even works as a scrumptious choice for the infamously difficult-to-pair Thanksgiving supper: It will work with roasted turkey, perk up stuffing, and, in its slightly sweeter versions, even work alongside sweet potatoes. (Not so much with cranberry sauce, nevertheless, as the tart acidity and sugarcoated in the meal call for something more akin to a slightly cooled Beaujolais Nouveau or, even better, an IPA.).
Chenin Blanc grapes
What Does Chenin Blanc Taste Like?
Drier versions of Chenin Blanc tend to remain dynamic with orchard, citrus, and stone fruit notes that are cut through with mouthwatering level of acidity and typically a spine of minerality. When they’re made in a sweeter design, and especially the botrytized ones of Quarts de Chaume (this implies that the grapes were affected by Botrytis cinerea, the exact same fungi responsible for Sauternes and Trockenbeerenauslese), they take on a noticeably honeyed character that makes them best for cheese courses and dessert, in addition to combining partners for foie gras.

Many producers desire to showcase Chenin Blanc’s bright, crisp level of acidity, which is why these wines are not often aged in oak( and when they are, it’s typically older oak, which imparts less extra flavors). Sparkling and dry non-sparkling Chenin Blanc are best served chilled, though the white wine will become more intricate as some of the chill decreases in the glass.

Five Great Chenin Blanc Wines.
There are many fantastic Chenin Blanc red wines on the marketplace today. These five manufacturers, listed alphabetically, are an ideal method to begin checking out all that Chenin Blanc needs to use.

Aperture and Chappellet.

Wine Maker Jesse Katz has turned into one of the more buzzed-about producers in Napa Valley in the last few years. His reds and whites are generous, structured, and frequently extremely age-worthy. The 2020 Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc, from the Aperture Soil Series of wines, is crafted from 1940s dry-farmed Chenin Blanc. It shows notable creaminess and weight, bright lemon-lime acidity, tips of lime blossoms, lime leaves, and graham crackers through the finish. Chappellet, which produces one of the most well-regarded Cabernet Sauvignons in Napa Valley– their renowned Pritchard Hill bottling– likewise produces the Molly Chappellet Signature Chenin Blanc. The 2021 is lively and deeply mineral, with tastes of lemon pith and fresh ginger dancing together with apricot pits and hard pears. It’s a remarkable wine to enjoy by itself, or with food.

Domaine Huet.

This classic producer has actually remained in Vouvray for nearly a century and represents an exceptional series of what Chenin Blanc can in the most professional hands. And the land in which much of their Chenin grows is amazing. Their demi-sec bottling of Le Haut-Lieu is crafted from Chenin Blanc that’s grown on a parcel that the Huet household gotten in the late 1920s, leading to outstanding historic knowledge of how to take advantage of it.

L’Ecole No. 41.

Though much better understood for their reds, Ecole No. 41 also crafts an old vine Chenin Blanc from the Yakima Valley. Their products refer to it as “Vouvray-style,” though it equates that classic through the unique lens of Washington State.

Leo Steen.

Amongst a rewarding, diverse variety of wines, the 2018 Jurassic Vineyard Chenin Blanc from Santa Ynez Valley shines: The nose here is beautiful, transparent and mineral, with lemon oil and hot rocks. On the palate, minerality, lemon pith, almonds, and yellow plums come through in this highly textural red wine.

This top Stellenbosch producer makes two Chenin Blancs– an Original and Old Vine. Both of them showcase what makes the Western Cape of South Africa such an important place for this grape range.

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