The Chenin Blanc grape variety originates in the Loire Valley of France. It is sometimes known as Steen in South Africa, but this is fast disappearing.
Chenin Blanc is wonderfully versatile and can produce dry wines, fruity wines as well as fantastic sweet wines.
How do you pronounce Chenin Blanc?
Where does it comes from?
Chenin Blanc is originally from the Loire Valley in central France. There, it undoubtedly produces its best examples.
Of course, as with most of the old world, you won’t see the mention of Chenin Blanc anywhere near the label.
But when you see names such as Vouvray, Bonnezeaux, Quarts de Chaume, Montlouis or Coteaux du Layon, Savennieres or Anjou, it is all Chenin Blanc!
What does it smell like?
Chenin Blanc, when produced well, is a wonderfully aromatic grape variety. It tend to develop aromas of quince, mango, citrus fruit, peach, pineapple, and pear.
The sweet versions will show aromas of honey, white flower and nuts.
What does it taste like?
Chenin Blanc is a very surprising mix of sweetness and zingyness. Its acidity and roundness on the palate make it the ultra-versatile. Chenin Blanc can be found as sparkling wine as dry wine, off-dry or sweet.
Yet, when you see “Chenin Blanc” on the label, you can expect a dry wine with a high acidity and a good sweetness. This is also the style you most often find in other places.
What food will it pair well with?
For dry Chenin Blanc, goat’s cheese is a brilliant match.
It also pairs well with well with poultry such as chicken and guinea fowl. You could also go for grilled pork chops or even veal.
If you go for slightly sweeter examples of Chenin Blanc, then creamy fish, poultry dishes or fresh pan fried foie gras will be sublime. As will richer, intense cow’s milk cheeses.
Where are the best regions for Chenin Blanc?
Chenin Blanc is a rather complicated grape variety to grow. It produces really acidic wines when the weather is too cold, and average plonk at best in warmer climates.
The Loire Valley is without a doubt the region producing the very best examples of Chenin Blanc. I would also recommend South Africa, which produces wines that will delight.
New Zealand has also been producing some great Chenin Blancs.
What tastes similar?
Sauvignon Blanc, also a Loire Valley grape variety, can be a good wine to go to if you enjoy dry Chenin Blancs. You should have a go at New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Also from New Zealand, you could go for a Pinot Gris which is going to be slightly weightier.
What are the best Chenin Blanc wines?
Le dit Chenin, Domaine de la Truffiere Anjou, A divine Chenin at a fantastic price.
Jumeaux, Montlouis, Vincent Careme a vibrant and beautifully mineral Chenin Blanc
In South Africa,
Leliefontein Quartz Chenin from Mullineux in Swartalnd is worldclass
For sweet wines:
Vouvray Moelleux Le Haut Lieu from Huet’s is an iconic wine of course
Chateau de Fesles Bonnezeaux is also unbelieveable and up there
And finally something a bit weird and wonderful is de Trafford’s Vin de Paille, a straw wine that is made from 100% Chenin..