Oh Chenin Blanc! A variety that does not get nearly enough love in our opinion. It's brilliant acidity and honeysuckle perfume lend elegance to everything from bone dry Vouvrays to sticky sweet Quarts de Chaume in the Loire valley. The reason that you might not have heard of it is because it has only made a splash in one country outside of its native France, the up and coming South Africa.
In the Vineyard
Chenin buds early but ripens late. This lengthy growing season leave more opportunity for it to be devoured by pests, or destroyed by bunch rot or sunburn (Yes grapes can get sunburned). It is also prone to Botritis Cinerea (aka the noble rot)
It thrives in maritime climates (those near seas, lakes or oceans), and in “tuffeau” clay, sand, or gravel soils
In the Winery
Although Chenin can benefit from a boost of old neutral oak which offers more subtle flavor enhancements, it fares best in stainless steel.
Chenin can run the gamut from sparkling to bone dry to sticky sweet depending upon what the winemaker wishes.
Where it rocks
In France, Chenin is most widely used in Loire Valley. If you see Anjou, Touraine, Vouvray, Savennières or Jasnieres on the label and it is a white wine, it is most likely made with Chenin. Our fave producers: Nicolas Joly, Domaine Richou, Phillippe Foreau, Domaine de la Bellivière, Damien Lareau.
In the new world, Chenin is increasingly used in California to make dry quality wines but can also find its way in to jug wines (don't blame the victim).
It's most famous new world home is South Africa, where it is also known as Steen. Production here is three times as much as in its native France, but the quality is not always there. ken Forrester makes an awesome one which is offers superb bang for the buck.
Color: Pale straw yellow to deeper aged yellow gold of aged sweet dessert wine
Aroma: Dried flowers, lightly honeyed quince, mushroom, honey, damp straw, hay, grass, marzipan
Body/Texture: Medium to Full
Acidity: Medium plus to high
Flavors: Lemon zest, fresh apricot, ripe pear, orange peel, honey, damp straw, citrus, honeysuckle, hazelnut, toasted brioche.