STYLE: Dry to sweet; light to full-bodied; sparkling and still.
SUITABILITY FOR LONG TERM KEEPING: Can be good, but only for the top sweet or potentially sweet wines.
WHERE GROWN SUCCESSFULLY: The Loire (Vouvray, sparkling Saumur, Cremant de la Loire, Bonnezeaux,. Savennieres, Coteaux du Layon’. Quarts de Chaume), South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, California, Chile.
Chenin Blanc can produce both dry and sweet wines, sometimes with considerable class, although when grown in cool climates it exhibits harsh acidity when young. Because of this factor it is often misunderstood, and most people do not realize that by keeping a bottle of decent Chenin for a few years they could have a wonderful wine in their glass.
It is difficult to describe Chenin Blanc’s taste. The most noticeable characteristic is its high acidity, which can completely hide the ripe, sweet fruit.lurking beneath it. But once you get behind the acidity the flavour is earthy, with honeyed, flowery overtones. And because Chenin Blanc is not as fashionable as Chardonnay it is generally very reasonably priced.
Early picked Chenin Blanc makes the crisp, dry, fairly simple white wines that we know so well from the Loire Valley in Northern France, from where it is supposed to have originated. Basic Anjou Blanc is made from Chenin, although now the tendency in the Loire Valley is to blend in a percentage of other grapes such as Sauvignon or Chardonnay to give it more character. These straightforward wines are designed for early drinking and are not oak-aged.
Famous wines made from Chenin Blanc grape are the luscious, sweet wines from the Loire including Vouvray, Coteaux du Layon, Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume. Wines like this can last for centuries.
Chenin Blanc is grown very successfully throughout South Africa, where it is known as Steen, and modern cold fermentation techniques get rid of the earthiness it exhibits in the Loire. A few producers in South Africa are now making excellent sweet Chenins. Other countries successfully producing it include New Zealand, California and Australia, where it is often oak-aged.
The Chenin Blanc is one of the few grapes that actually seems to thrive in cold climates like the Loire and New Zealand.