Chenin Blanc is one of the most versatile white grape varieties in the world! As a non-aromatic grape, wine-makers experiment with it to produce it in a variety of expressions. It’s unique in the fact that it can be dry or sweet. Still or sparkling. Consumed young or aged for many years. In certain humid regions, it is also intentionally exposed to Noble Rot to make luscious dessert wines. Chenin Blanc is most commonly found in France’s Loire Valley and in South Africa.
This grape has high acidity, which helps to make it so versatile and enjoyed in many different styles. Its primary flavors are green apple, lemon, peach, apricot, peach, honey, and guava. It is also herbaceous, which can be more prominent in cooler regions where some of the berries experience less ripeness. Young expressions are light and fruity. Chenin Blanc wines that are aged in the bottle for many years become rounded and rich, and develop tertiary flavors of toast and honey.
Premium versions of Chenin Blanc are made in Vouvray, an appellation situation in France’s Loire Valley. In this region, the grape is produced as both a still and sparkling wine, with marked flavors of fresh and light fruit from its clay soils. Here, Chenin Blanc takes on a fresh fruit and floral characteristics with hints of steel and smoke. However, it is usually not fermented or aged in oak barrels. These wines can sometimes age in the bottle for 10 years!
South African Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc is the most widely-planted grape South Africa. Here, it is made in a variety of styles, from inexpensive to premium. The inexpensive expressions are usually light and fruity. However, the more expensive versions are often aged in oak and have fuller textures – imparting more developed aromas and flavors into the finished wine.
Dry Chenin Blanc has high acidity, and pairs well with acidic and salty dishes. It is often enjoyed alongside salads with Italian-styled dressing, salty fried chicken, and ham. Sweet expressions with low alcohol compliment spicy foods, especially those of Asian and Indian cuisine. Sparkling Chenins are often enjoyed with delicate seafood like shrimp, shellfish, and salmon.
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