Chenin Blanc: One Grape, Many Faces
Light, bright, and full of flavour, Chenin Blanc will instantly charm anyone who loves a fantastic glass of well-made white wine. Been drinking lots of Chardonnay recently? Try mixing things up with Chenin Blanc. The grape hails from the Loire Valley in Central France, but has made its way to the New World where we see it grown in huge quantities in South Africa (they've even surpassed France!), in addition to cropping up in vineyards across Australia, Argentina and the United States - all of which produce excellent examples and excellent value Chenin Blanc. Forget any historical misgivings about Chenin. Today, these wines are amongst the best wines in the world.
Oh So Versatile
Like Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc is incredibly versatile, not only in terms of the styles of wine it makes but also the enormous scope of cuisines it can be enjoyed with. Chenin Blanc can be made as a still or sparkling wine, bone dry, off-dry or decadently sweet. Along the banks of the Loire River in its native home, winemakers make superb wines that fall on every part of this spectrum. Look for wines from Vouvray, Savennières or Quarts de Chaume if you have a sweet tooth. Love dry wine like Sauvignon Blanc or a racy cool climate Chardonnay? No problem. Look for the word “sec” on a label of Vouvray; most Savennières is dry and only carries a special labelling term if it happens to have residual sugar. But anyone who even occasionally loves a little something sweet to sip on must try a dessert Chenin. Vouvray and Quarts de Chaume are two of the top areas for this style.
Key Loire Labelling Terms:
Sec – dry
Demi-sec – off-dry, for that in between style
Doux – lusciously sweet
In South Africa, Chenin is also known as Steen and produces wines that are usually dry and are available both as a single variety wine or as part of a tasty blend. Aussie Chenin is also produced dry and brilliant bottles of the wine are made in all over the country from the Margaret River in Western Australia down to Tasmania.
Chenin Blanc produces real knockout wines. They're classy, elegant, and can be quite rich. Red and yellow apples, pear, honeysuckle, peach, and mandarins only begin to touch upon the complexity offered in a glass of Chenin.
From Dry to Sweet, Something for Everyone
With refreshing acid and a generous body, these wines can hold up to a variety of dishes. Chenin Blanc is as good with fish as it is with pork or chicken. Better still, regardless of where it's from, most Chenin is not only affordable but also has moderate alcohol levels around 13%. Of course, there are some bottles that'll cost a pretty penny, but these are the top tier versions that are candidates for ageing – did we mention you can age Chenin? Off-dry and sweet bottles can age upwards of ten, twenty, even thirty years! So you can lay down a few bottles for a special anniversary or birthday down the line while enjoying the delicious, refreshing dry Chenins any day of the week. It's as simple as this: you just can't go wrong with a glass of Chenin.