Continuing with our recent theme of discussing grapes born in the Loire Valley (see our last pieces on Cabernet Franc and Riesling), we present to you another gorgeous grape that many tend to overlook: the Chenin Blanc.
This fabulous white grape comes from France, particularly in the ever famous Loire Valley, but made its way to South Africa in the 1600s where it’s become increasingly popular. Around the 1970s, Chenin Blanc was actually removed from vineyards in France to make way for the Cab Franc and Sauvignon Blanc but then came back to life when the wine community had a taste for sweet dessert wines.
It’s incredibly versatile, actually, with a unique variety of tastes varying from the sweeter side to the dry whites and bubblies. What is truly wonderful about a Chenin Blanc is the medium to high levels of acidity that you’ll find no matter where it comes from. There is a huge range of fruit flavors you can get from this lovely white grape from pear and quince to melons and oranges and even very specific notes of dessert like baked apples with honey.
Many Chenin Blancs take on qualities that can resemble a Chardonnay but are a bit more robust in their palate. These can demonstrate flavors of buttered popcorn or even graham crackers when they’ve been aged in oak.
Because of the terroir of the Loire Valley which is a very northern region of France, temperatures can get fairly low, which poses an interesting element to the Chenin Blanc which is harvested late. In fact, in the seasons when it gets much warmer, like those long autumns, the grape can be subject to noble rot. It sounds gross but in fact, this is the mold that is known for creating some of the most spectacular sweet wines because of the way it causes the skins to shrivel and allow the juices to concentrate and create that fabulous rich taste. Unless it’s subject to these specific conditions, Chenin Blancs tend to be on the drier side with that marvelous acidity that it’s famous for, which can also create delicious sparkling wines.
Despite these amazing qualities, Chenin Blanc still tends to be forgotten about on the grand scale, constantly overlooked by Vouvray (another lovely sweet white from France) or even Sauvignon Blanc which has less of a range but takes the world as one of the most popular white wines. If you’re excited to try this beauty, which you should be, only look for those that come from the Loire Valley or South Africa to ensure you’re truly experiencing the best it has to offer.
Oct 23 – 30, 2021
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