Chenin Blanc wine guide
Chenin Blanc is one of the most underrated wines in the world, a white wine that is acidic and sharp as a razor and very characteristic, elegant, fine, with inviting aromas of fruit and minerals. There are few white wines that can boast such elegance and in fact it is so full of acidity and minerality that it is often compared to Riesling, to which it resembles because of the suggestions of rock and citrus fruits (the typical aromas of Riesling), not so much for the loved ones / reviled scents of hydrocarbons, which in reality are not the most remarkable characteristic of Riesling.
Production areas of Chenin Blanc: the Loire Valley dominates
Chenin Blanc is not only a great wine, but also a wine with which practically all types of wine are made: dull wines, not very intense and very fruity; salty and mineral wines like a mountain (Savennières nell’Anjou), classic method sparkling wines with great character (Saumur and Crémant de Limoux), sumptuous and hypnotic sweet wines such as the masterpieces, from botrytised grapes, produced in the 50 hectares of Quarts de Chaume and in the 100 of Bonnezeaux, also in the department of Anjou. And then there is Vouvray’s Chenin Blanc which produces every type, but with great and unrepeatable results, but we’ll talk about this at the bottom of the page.
You are spoiled for choice, but all that glitters is not gold: if it is true that the Loire Valley, or at least the central part, is the elective homeland of Chenin Blanc and that there are very limited productions, with well defined, the discussion becomes more thorny when we pass to the Chenin Blanc of South Africa, Australia and California, where the production is much more intense and obviously loses that incredible sapidity-minerality due to the unique soils of the Loire.
In South Africa the most suitable area is Stellenbosch, while Napa Valley has always been in love with Chenin Blanc. In Australia, on the other hand, the Western Valley, near Perth, is the cradle of Australian Chenin Blanc. Emblematic was the case of Houghton’s sweet wine called White Burgundy, based on Chenin Blanc, which for years was the best-selling wine on the island.
This is not to say that South African, Napa Valley or Australian Chenin Blancs are poor, indeed there are excellent wineries and some wines have an imaginative vividness, yet they lack that incredible mineral appeal, flavors and rock structure, which in the Loire also transforms itself into considerable aging potential and not only in edges.
Organoleptic characteristics of Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc is a very acid white wine, where the sugar level can reach remarkable peaks, so much so that it lends itself very well to late harvest vinification for sweet and botrytized wines. The bouquet of Chenin Blanc is very fascinating, honey and straw are the most typical aromas, while the fruit is based on an apple plantation, you will find them all, from red to yellow, passing through green. There is no lack of tropical, citrus and herbaceous flavors, even if it is not in the least comparable to Sauvignon Blanc. If it is produced in the Loire, the suggestions of chalk and rocks are incredibly marked.
The flavor of Chenin Blanc
On the palate it is a fresh, honeyed wine, full of flowers and minerals, with a tenacious structure, unstoppable acid propulsion, but great pleasure. It is never a decadent or redundant or cooked wine. If it is a sweet wine, the tones become mature, sumptuous and more enveloping, with strong spicy and licorice notes. The herbaceous is felt and balances the sweetness in an excellent way.
If it is we are tasting a sparkling wine with a Chenin Blanc base such as a Saumur, freshness, citrus, chalk, grass, honey and a contagious rhythm.
Vouvray: the home of Chenin Blanc
The wines of Vouvray and Montluis-sur-Loire deserve a special mention: dry, medium-sweet, semi-dry, sweet and sparkling. In practice, in just one area you have all the possible variations of this noble wine. In Vouvray the soils are based on clays and pebbles, with the vineyards facing south, to get all the sun of the day, and these characteristics create unique conditions, which favor the birth of intense and rocky wines, able to evolve for decades and decades. Based on the performance of each vintage, we choose which wine to prefer and produce in greater quantities.
Obviously, given the presence of the river, which releases moisture, there is the possibility that in the most favorable years the grapes will be attacked by Botrytis and in this case the wines become even more long-lived and expressive. Huet and Nigel Pinguet are the two reference winemakers of the Vouvray area, if you find these bottles do not hesitate and buy them with your eyes closed. Pinguet is more extreme between the two and bases its production philosophy on biodynamics, but you won’t find even a smudge in its white wines.
Chenin Blanc Food Pairings
Its good acidity, flavor and intriguing aromas invite to pairings with fish, seafood, pizza, pasta and white meats. Recommended dishes: veal with tuna sauce, spaghetti with clams, pumpkin tortelli alla mantovana, rice noodles with shrimps and vegetables, ravioli with herbs parmesan, risotto with truffles, spaghetti carbonara, pad thai.