- The Best Wine to Pair with Oysters - July 10, 2022
- The Best of Long Island’s North Fork Wineries: A Complete Guide - July 7, 2022
- The Best Wines to Pair with Scallops - July 7, 2022
I’ll be honest. When I started this article I was ambivalent about Chenin Blanc.
I didn’t hate it. If I had a choice between Riesling or Chenin Blanc, I’d pick the Blanc. Not because I loved it, just because I thought it might be alright.
Chances are, you’re like me. You’ve heard of it, but can’t really explain what it is. Or you’ve never heard of it at all before and can’t understand what I mean by “classic.” Or, worse yet, you once had absolutely rancid swill calling itself Chenin Blanc and have sworn off the stuff since.
As a new convert, let me tell you, give Chenin Blanc another shot! You’ll find some of the most exquisite and complex wines to grace your glass if you can just pick the right bottles.
This guide will teach you how to pick out the best Chenin Blancs. You know, the ones that make you wonder why you’ve never had it in the first place!
Table of Contents
Key Facts about Chenin Blanc:
- Highly Acidic
- Very versatile and adaptable
- Vulnerable to Noble Rot “Botrytis Ceranae Mold”
- Makes a wide variety of White Wines
- Makes both sweet and dry varieties
- Can be Oaked or Unoaked
- Forms the base of many sparkling wines
- Originated in France
- Over 50% of wines produced come from South Africa
- Can be found in France, South Africa, California, Texas, New York, and South America
What is Chenin Blanc?
Adaptable, versatile, delicious. Sounds like your dream grape doesn’t it?
It should be!
Chenin Blanc is the name of a small green grape that grows in both warm and cool climates. It has a naturally high acidity, which makes it perfect for both blending and for creating sparkling wines.
But Chenin Blanc has another secret gift. When the grapes are allowed to ripen on the vine (necessary to dampen their sharp acidity), they become remarkably susceptible to botrytization or “noble rot.”
I know what you’re thinking, “Rot?! Gross!” But noble rot is actually incredibly useful in wine. This particularly favorable mold called “botrytis cinerea” is attracted by moisture and grows on the outside of ripe grape skins. The fungus sucks out much of the juice of the grape, allowing what is left to become richer, sweeter, and more complex.
It is these botrytized grapes that go on to create the sweet dessert wines and brut sparklers you enjoy on a summer evening with the girls!
Of course, if these processes go wrong or the grapes are picked too soon, you end up with nearly undrinkable bottles. Or bottles that have completely bland flavors.
Because of this, in less technical circles, Chenin Blanc has become synonymous with cheap, bad white wine. But we’ll get more into that later.
Chenin Blanc grapes produce white wines that can vary from extremely dry all the way to sweet-as-pie. They may not always be called Chenin Blanc on the bottle, which might be why you don’t know you’ve actually had one before. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Where does Chenin Blanc come from?
As with what seems like nearly every other grape in the world, Chenin Blanc originally hails from the sweet rolling valleys of Loire, France.
Viticulture in the Loire
The climate of Loire is perfect for many grape varieties, which is why there are so many wines that originate in France. There is also an incredibly unique terroir in the Loire. It’s full of a combination of different soils, precipitations, and weather patterns.
The cooler climate of Loire is ideal for growing Chenin Blanc grapes. But Chenin Blanc is naturally extremely acidic. And with cooler temperatures, it is often harder for the grapes to temper that high, sharp acidity. Sometimes they don’t get to develop those deeper and more complex flavors that make Chenin Blancs worth our time.
Vineyards have to be careful not to pick the grapes too quickly or they will be so sour and acidic that they are unusable. But because they have such high acidity, the grapes can be left on the vine to ripen without losing too much acid!
Complicating matters, Chenin Blanc grapes ripen unevenly. Some branches ripen quickly, others take much, much longer.
To solve this, vintners often use crop thinning. Simply put, this involves removing and sacrificing part of the grapes during growth. The technique removes the excess fruit and allows valuable nutrients to soak into the grapes that are left on the vine. The result? A smaller crop, but a bigger flavor in each grape.
Vinters in the Loire picks grapes by hand, using multiple passes through the vines to collect grapes in different stages.
Wine-Making Techniques in the Loire
Wine-making techniques like oak versus stainless steel aging can be fairly obvious. But more subtle aspects like filtration, stabilization, or even added sugar also have strong effects on taste and texture.
Stabilization is one of those techniques that got Chenin Blanc a bad rap. It involves removing some wine debris to make a clearer wine and smooth texture, but you also may lose some of those deeper flavor complexities.
This can be done by filtration. Or by adding sulfur. The addition of sulfur to highly acidic and under-ripe Chenin Blanc lead to a very bad, almost undrinkable bottles.
If you’ve had one of those, I’m sorry.
While many grapes are naturally sweet due to botrytization or late harvest, some areas like Moelleux will add extra sugar and stabilizers to create the sweeter wines. (Some Moelleux wines are naturally sweet) Bonnezeaux, on the other hand, tends to be naturally sweeter. Those wines will have a higher sugar content, usually derived from noble rot.
Vouvray wines can be made with or without noble rot, so some are sweet and many are dry. In some cases oxidation is used, especially in Savennèires wines which are also typically dry. But the oxidative wine-making makes the fruit flavors riper, adds in nut and baking flavors, and reduces the crisp zing of many Chenin Blancs.
What about South African Chenin Blanc?
Yes, you’ve probably seen Chenin Blancs from South Africa, California, New York, even Texas!
Remember when I said Chenin Blanc was adaptive?
The grapes originated in cooler France, but they grow just as well in warmer climates. In fact, the warmer the climate, the less you have to worry about an overdose of acidity. (The naturally high acidity in the grape keeps it from becoming too sweet.)
Nearly 50% of all Chenin Blanc vines are in South Africa, with small pockets around the United States as well.
Viticulture and Wine-Making Techniques in South Africa
In South Africa, many bushes of Chenin Blanc were planted centuries ago. (So long ago, some people have forgotten if they were Chenin Blanc or not!) They’ve also been crossed with other grape varieties to create entirely new flavours and varietals, but we’ll focus on 100% Chenin here.
The best South African (and American) Chenins are harvested from very old bushes because the growth of the grapes has stabilized. They tend to ripen evenly and consistently.
South African Steens are usually aged on the lees (meaning on the seeds and skins) to deepen the flavour and complexity. These wines will often have a nuttier and breadier with notes of yeast. Their cool-filtration methods and blending with Sauvignon Blancs can also create the opposite: very fresh, acidic, and electric wines.
South African vintners will often blend Chenin Blanc with other wines like Viognier or Semillion or even Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Unlike early blends, these utilize the best points of Chenin Blanc and are worth giving a try.
A Little on Chenin Blanc’s History
If someone were to tell the recent story of Chenin Blanc it would go a little something like “once upon a time there was an ugly duckling that grew into a beautiful swan.”
For many years Chenin Blanc has had something of a rotten reputation. Its adaptability made it easy to grow nearly anywhere so there was a lot of it. Its high acidity made it easy to add into blended wines without too much thought. And its propensity to sweetness made it an easy choice for anyone aiming to make sugar water.
Mishandling of the grape growth and poor use of wine-making techniques lead to huge batches of undrinkable wine. They were sold under the heading “Chenin Blanc.” And this poor little grape was picked on for years because of it.
But in recent years, Chenin Blanc, much like the ugly duckling. If the ugly duckling had had some boutique vineyards and hip sommeliers giving him a makeover.
From Ancient Glory to Modern Mishandling
If you go further back in history, Chenin Blanc wasn’t always mistaken for an ugly duck. Chenin Blanc has actually been grown as a wine grape for thousands of years.
Yes, thousands. In fact, the famous writer Rabelais first wrote about Chenin Blanc grapes in 1550.
Chenin Blanc’s story begins in Anjou, France and then traveled to Touraine. From there Chenin Blanc spread to South Africa in 1655 via the colonies, where it was widely planted and enjoyed.
And for a while, massive amounts of California were planned with Chenin Blanc. Until its bad reputation got in the way and many vineyards were ripped up and replanted with commercial successes. Those old New-World vineyards are largely gone now. In fact, Chenin Blanc nearly went extinct. But the pockets that remain create a really excellent version of Chenin Blanc.
Thanks to South Africa’s ample supply and a few invested winemakers, Chenin Blanc grapes are finally being handled properly. It finally has a chance to shine.
So you see, the problem with Chenin Blanc isn’t that it was an ugly baby duck. It’s just that it took a few years for people to figure out how to identify a swan.
What Types of Wines are made with Chenin Blanc?
Because Chenin Blanc has spread all over the world, there is no official designation for the type of wine created. Chenin Blanc can be used in a number of blends as well, which makes naming your wine even harder.
Here are the common names you’ll find on bottles that were made with 100% Chenin Blanc grapes.
- Steen (Dry or Sweet)
- Vouvray (Classic Chenin Blanc, Varied)
- Savennèires (Dry, but very different from the classic)
- Montlouis (Similar to Vouvray)
- Bonnezeaux (Sweet Chenin Blancs)
- Moelleux (Very Sweet Chenin Blancs)
- Pinaeu de la Loiere
- Coteaux de l’Aubanc
- Coteaux du Layon
- Quarts de Chaume
- Jasnières (Dry Chenin Blanc)
- Anjour (Mostly Dry, Some Sweet)
Keep in mind all the viticulture and winemaking techniques above will change the aromas and textures of your bottle.
It is wise to do a little research or ask your wine shop cashier for help if you’re interested in a specific type of Chenin Blanc. But a Vouvray is always a good bed if you’re just starting out!
What is the General Flavor Profile of Chenin Blanc?
Because Chenin Blanc is so versatile, Chenin Blanc wines can have a wide range of flavors. (Which means you need to be sure which kind you are buying!)
Less Ripe = Dry
The less ripe the grape, the stronger its acidity. Many tasters note the “electric” acidity that flows from a really good dry glass of Chenin Blanc. Almost like a shock wave.
- Fruit: Quince, Lemons, Green Pear, Green Apple
- Herbs: Lemon Verbena, Hay, Sage, Ginger
Ripe = Off-Dry to Sweet
Ripe Chenin Blanc grapes tend to be sweeter. Whether they were just left on the vine longer or they developed noble rot, the sugar content in the fruit is higher. Consequently, wines made from these grapes will be sweeter and have a more developed fruity flavor.
- Fruit: Notes of Ripe Pear, Peach, Nectarine, and Bruised Apples, Mandarin Oranges
- Floral: Jasmine, Honeysuckle
- Spice: Longer on the vine means more contact with skin and seeds, so the spice content is increased. Notes of Ginger, Saffron, and White Pepper
Aging in wood increases both sweet and savory notes as well as obvious wood spices.
- Sweet: Butterscotch, Lemon Curds, Honeyed Oats
- Wood Spice: Oak, Vanilla, Nutmeg
- Bread/Savory: Yeast, Bread, Baguette, Olive
Chenin Blanc wines are often used as the base of sparkling wines because they have such high acidity.
- Brut: Drier sparkling wines will have strong notes of citrus and hints of Apple, floral notes like Jasmine
- Demi-Sec: Sweeter sparkling wines will still have strong notes of sweet citrus-like Mandarins, but more Honeycomb and noticeable stone fruits like Peaches and Nectarines and even Plumbs
Like Sparkling, Chenin Blanc is often added to blends for its acidity, so the notes of citrus fruits like lemon and lime are most apparent here.
Chenin Blanc vs Other White Wines
With a wine that few people have heard of or really know too much about, there’s bound to be someone out there asking what wine is most similar to Chenin Blanc.
What is the difference between Chenin Blanc and Riesling?
Chenin Blanc and Riesling are very similar. So similar that sommeliers will argue until they are blue in the face about which is more versatile.
The big difference is in the flavor, Chenin Blanc, in my opinion, has a wider range than Riesling. You’re guaranteed to get something like peach or apricot in Riesling. A Chenin Blanc may be strong in a pear or savory notes.
If your guests complain things are “too sweet” or “too fruity” go for either a dry Reisling or a Chenin Blanc!
What is the difference between Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc?
Both are high in acidity and strong on citrus notes. But Sauvignon Blanc has quite a bit of green flavor to it: herbs, grass, even seaweed. On the other end of the spectrum, Sauvignons are high in tropical flavors like passionfruit, melon, mango, pineapple, and guava.
Chenin Blanc sticks to orchard fruits and produces dry, semi-dry, and sweet wines.
You will never find a semi-dry Sauvignon Blanc!
If your guests complain things are “too green” or “too grassy,” pull out a Chenin Blanc to satisfy!
What is the difference between Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay?
Chenin Blanc will be fresher and brighter and often-times lighter than a Chardonnay. Chardonnays are made with heavy flavors and lots of aging that tends to weigh them down. Their oaky flavors are strong, sometimes overwhelming. And depending on their wine-making techniques, they may have an extra buttery flavor and texture. (This is not true of all Chardonnays.)
If your guests complain things are “too oaky” or “too buttery,” offer them a Chenin Blanc instead!
What wines are similar to Chenin Blanc?
- L’Étoile – a blend of Savagnin, the parents grape of Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay, will be similar to an oaked-Chenin Blanc
- Sauvignon Blanc – Sauvignon Blancs have many of the similar flavors to a Chenin Blanc. They are both capable of zesty citrus, but also contain hidden depths of sweet fruits. You’ll get more tropical and green notes in a Sauvignon Blanc than you will in a Chenin Blanc, though.
- Pinot Grigio – has a similarly bright zippy citrus notes, but there is less fruit or deep complexity of flavor in a Pinot Grigio
- Chardonnay – oak-aged Chardonnays can be very similar to most oak-aged Chenin Blancs. Blancs will be a little lighter and fruitier, while Chardonnays will have more of a buttery texture
- Riesling – has many of the similar properties of Chenin Blanc grapes
- Verdelho – not in any way related to the Chenin Blanc grape, but it is often confused for the same when it is in the glass because it is so similar in flavor
What to Pair with Chenin Blanc?
With such a wide variety in the flavors of Chenin Blanc bottles, the pairing options are endless.
- Meats: Cornish Game Hens, Trout, Pork Chops with Apples, Turkey and Cranberry Sauce, Salmon (Smoked or Baked), Veal
- Vegetables: Summer and Winter Squashes, Yams, Cauliflower, Mushrooms, Roasted Root Vegetables (Carrots, Parsnips, Turnips, Potatoes)
- Cheese: Brie (Dry), Goat Cheeses (Dry), Cow’s Milk Cheeses (Sweet), Cheddar (Sweet), Gruyere (Dry and Sweet)
- Desserts: Anything made with Christmas spices, Apple Pie, Pear Tarts, Roasted Peaches (Dry), Poached Pears (Sweet), Baked Apples (Sweet), Key Lime Pie, Lemon Meringue
What is the Price of Chenin Blanc?
Chenin Blanc varies as much in price as it can in quality.
There are some really excellent Chenin Blancs for upwards of $80.
But there are some lovely bottles of Chenin Blanc available in the $20-30 range as well.
In some cases, you can find excellent bottles of around $18. Some from France, but most of these are from South Africa or California.
Sparkling varieties will be on the higher end to find a good one. You’ll be looking in $35-40 range.
What to look for when picking a Chenin Blanc bottle?
Different locations imbue the wine with different qualities.
Cooler climates like the Loire Valley in France and some areas of California create tarter grapes with more citrus flavors.
Warmer climates like South Africa, South America, and Texas create riper, richer fruits with sweeter notes.
However, this isn’t a hard, fast rule. Some bottles from France are incredibly sweet while some South African wines are deliciously dry. And of course, oak aging can change everything!
Chenin Blanc is so easy to work with and adapt, you’ll want to look at more than just country of origin to determine which bottle to buy.
Type of Wine
Because Chenin Blanc is so widely planted and so incredibly adaptive, no two bottles are the same. Depending on location, terroir, viticulture, and wine-making techniques wines from one single country can vary too.
Sparkling or Still
Obviously one of the major choices you’ll have to make is whether you want a still wine or a sparkling.
Sparkling wines will either by dry “Brut” or Sweet “Demi-Sec.” (Semi-dry is often still called “Brut.”) You’ll likely be able to identify sparkling wines from these notations. And the packaging of the bottle.
If you are unsure, ask the cashier at your local wine shop!
Dry or Sweet
Take note of whether your wine is sweet or try, but remember it may not always be listed on the bottle.
If it is, and it’s from France, the typical nomenclature is below.
- Very Dry: Sec
- Mostly Dry: Tendre
- Mostly Sweet: Demi-Sec
- Very Sweet: Moelleux
- Dry: Brut
- Sweet: Demi-Sec
The Best Years for Chenin Blanc
Again, this all depends on location!
In France, cooler weather can freeze the grapes or delay their ripening so they are too highly acidic to be drinkable. A warmer year creates a smoother, sweeter, more flavorful grape.
Best Years for French Chenin Blanc: 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
In South Africa, the grapes have really taken off, so it is the wine-making techniques that really make the difference. Most vintages are quite good, but below are the two most excellent.
Best Years for South African Chenin Blancs: 2005, 2010
In America, there are so few Chenin Blanc vineyards left, it’s hard to find bottles these days. That said, California has the cooler weather of Loire combined with some of the warmer waves of South Africa. Washington, New York’s Finger Lakes, and Texas have fairly consistent vintages. But Texas had an especially good year in 2013. Their wines do tend to be sweeter.
Best Years for American Chenin Blancs: 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017
Remember Chenin Blancs will age well in a cellar, so if you find one of these vintages, purchase it! You can always save it for a later date.
The 5 Best Affordable Chenin Blanc Wines of 2019
France: 2017 Champalou Vouvray Chenin Blanc (France)
Deliciously savory and acidic. Reminiscent of a savory dipping sauce for bread or fish. Tastes exactly like it smells, full of tartness and acidity, floral fruity-ness with a soft oily texture.
- Color: Pale dusty lemon
- Cooler Nose: Lemon with a strong savory note almost like Olive Oil, Honeysuckle, Stone fruits, a hint of Baguette
- Cooler Palate: Strong savory olive oil, Honey and peaches, Lemony finish
- Doesn’t change with warmth. Lemon and oil notes get stronger. More nectarine on the finish.
- Body: Light body
White wine from Vouvray · France. Gentle and refreshing on the palate, it boasts a delightful balance of stony minerality with luscious, almost honeyed fruit and flowery notes.
South Africa: 2017 Die Agteros Chenin Blanc Joostenberg Estate (Paarl, South Africa)
Organically grown grapes and limited filtration and stabilization make for an interesting wine here. They made only 2,634 bottles of this vintage using the oldest Chenin Blanc in their vineyard. And you can taste it. The flavors are wonderfully complex and rich. The acidity is a little softer in this, overwhelmed by the floral notes. It is most like Chardonnay.
- Color: Bright Yellow
- Cooler Nose: Strong floral notes of honeysuckle, jasmine, and oak. Citrus notes with a bit of butter, perhaps. Honeycomb is faint in the background.
- Cooler Palate: Jasmine and honeysuckle, followed by lemons and tart apples. There is a faint desire for sweetness but it can’t actually be found.
- Warmer Nose: Toasted Burnt Pears, Caramelized Apples, Oak and Lemon Curds
- Warmer Palate: Honeyed fruit, Oak, A very faint butter-like taste
- Body: Light-body
- Very Dry
White wine from Paarl · South Africa. The Joostenberg Estate 'Die Agteros' Chenin Blanc is a delicious match for Lanri's free range chicken braised with fennel and tomato.
California: 2017 Herzog Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (Napa Valley, California)
While not overwhelmingly sweet, the 2017 Herzog is deliciously fresh and fruity. The vibrant acidity keeps it from getting that sickly sweet level that so many bad Chenin Blancs do. Honey and raisin-like flavors fill the glass. You could pair this with some cheeses, but it also stands perfectly as its own dessert!
- Color: Honey Yellow
- Cooler Nose: Apple, Pear, Honey, Faint hints of Raisins and Apricots
- Cooler Palate: Apple and Pear notes burst through, there is a slight mineral quality as well, Apple Skins and Honey are perfectly Balanced
- Warmer Nose: Raisins and Apricots come to the foreground, surrounded by Honey, Notes of Ginger, Pear, and Apple take a backseat
- Warmer Palate: Honey and Raisin are obvious and strong, but Ginger Spice lingers in the background. Just a hint of Green Apple on the finish.
- Body: Light and Airy with Short Finish
- Sweet (with dry notes)
Dessert wine from Clarksburg · United States. This wine displays mouthwatering honey and apricot aromas and is perfectly balanced. Since the wine is naturally quite sweet. Best enjoyed with full-flavored desserts, pate, and fresh fruit, or as an aperitif.
Sparkling Dry: 2014 Ancestrale Brut Vouvray Domaine Vincent Carême (Loire Valley, France)
Exceedingly dry, you’ll want to let this breath a little, but not too long! The sparkle is natural, so its less overwhelming than the artificially carbonated wines. Ancestral refers to the method that bottles wines before their fermentation is finished. The flavors are ripe and fruity, with hints of honey despite its dry character. An excellent option for a welcome glass at a summer party!
- Color: Light Gold
- Cooler Nose: Fresh Florals, Bright Citrus like Lime and Lemon, Nutty character of Almonds and Walnuts
- Cooler Palate: Jasmine, Green Apples and Tart Pears, Honeycomb floats in the background, Lemony Acidity
- Warmer Nose: Jasmine, Honey Suckle, Lemons, Bruised Orchard Fruit soaked in Honey
- Warmer Palate: Subtly Smoke notes of Charred Apples, Honeycomb, Minerality to finish with Tangy Acidity to keep it bright
- Body: Light Bodied
Sparkling wine from Vouvray · France. Naturally sparkling rather than needing any addition of yeast or sugar, this fine bone-dry wine has great style, great character.
Sparkling Sweet: Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Pétillant Demi-Sec (Loire, France)
Imagine drinking a baked apple crumble. Full of delicious caramelized apple notes, there is a hint of bread to this as well that gives it a deeper complexity. The sweet honeyed notes are just perfect for dessert or an outdoor picnic.
The acidity keeps it from becoming too sweet to enjoy sipping blending perfectly with the sweet notes and gentle texture. (Pétillant refers to only slightly bubbly.)
- Color: Bright Yellow Bubbles
- Cooler Nose: Orchard fruits, Apple Crumble, Tart Pears, and Lemons doused in Honey
- Cooler Palate: Apples, White Peaches, Pears, and a hint of Tart Nectarines, Honey is the main sweetener with slight touches of Lemon for acid. Yeast and Bread in the background.
- Warmer Nose: Apple Crumble, Apple Pie, Brioche with just a tiny hint of Butter, Honeycomb
- Warmer Palate: Full of delicious Baked Pie notes, Poached Honey Pears, Citrus acid changes to Tangerines and Lemons.
- Body: Medium-Light Body
Sparkling wine from Vouvray · France. This wine is soft, honeyed, ripe with baked apple and gentle acidity. It is off dry, heading towards sweet, while never forgetting a crisp edge that gives a citrus finish.
Bonus: 2015 Châteav D’Épiré Cuvée Spéciale Savennières (France)
Acidic of course, but it hits in the back palate as you take your first sip. The first note is of honeyed apples and a wave of chamomile tea. The notes of oak are inescapable, even though they are faint. The back taste is a strong sweetly toasted oak with just a bare hint of vanilla. It pairs wonderfully with the baking spices that come out as the glass warms up.
- Color: Pale Straw with flecks of Amber
- Cooler Nose: Jasmine, Green Pear, Green Apple, Brown Sugar, and White Flour, Oak
- Cooler Palate: Chamomile, Green Apple, Faint honeysuckle, With a hint of Caramel toasted Oak
- Warmer Nose: Lemons, Oak, Vanilla, and Butter
- Warmer Palate: Lemon, Wood Spices, Oak, Creamy Pear, Baking Spices
- Body: Medium Body
- Semi-dry, soft
White wine from Savennières · France. This wine is characterized by concentrated aromas of fruit balanced with an interesting minerality, which is typical of the region.
FAQs About Chenin Blanc
Like all white wines, Chenin Blanc should be served chilled. It doesn’t need to be icy, so take it out of the fridge about 10 minutes before you’re going to pour. Or put it in the fridge 30 minutes to one hour before you’re going to serve it.
There are a couple of different ways to tell the difference. The first is obviously flavor and aroma.Chenin Blanc has such a wide range it can mimic anything from a Sauvignon to a Riesling to a Chardonnay. But for the most part, Sauvignon Blancs will smell either green (think herbs, grass, or bell pepper) or tropical (think pineapple, mango, passionfruit).Rieslings will smell heavy on stone fruit like peaches, nectarines, or apricots and sometimes even have a petrol or diesel smell. Chenin Blancs, on the other hand, will be: high in acidity, full of sweet honey notes, jasmine and bruised fruit, oaked and wood spice.
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is, yes, some of them. If you have a really nice Chenin Blanc, it seems like a bit of a waste to dump it in a pasta sauce.On the other hand, there are really mediocre (and dare I say, bad) bottles of Chenin Blanc out there. Use one of those to cook. They tend to be highly acidic so they add a nice spritz of citrus into sauces. Chenin Blanc is especially good to add to fish dishes!
Both! If the Chenin Blanc grapes were picked on the less-ripe side of the spectrum the wine will be higher in acidity and much drier. If the Chenin Blanc grapes were riper or vulnerable to noble rot (botrytized), the wine will be much sweeter.The same can be said of the sparkling variety! Chenin Blanc can be the base of either Brut (dry) or Demi-Sec (sweet).
Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc – all depending on what characteristics you want to replicate. See above for more details!
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Try One!
Have I convinced you to put Chenin Blancs back on your list?
Don’t let a previous bad experience (or no experience at all) stop you from trying this incredibly versatile wine. With a return to traditional and careful wine-making practices, Chenin Blanc grapes are finally getting the attention and care they deserve.
No matter your palate, you’re bound to find at least one Chenin Blanc you love: dry, off-dry, sweet, oaked, sparkling…there are so many options. No wonder it’s returning to its former glory.
So the next time you are out with your friends and see a Chenin Blanc on the menu, give it a shot. You might just surprise yourself by discovering a swan!