Let me introduce you to my friend Chenin Blanc.
Chenin is my favourite white wine so worthy of a mention (imo). Many of you will not know the name while others may already be acquainted with this little gem.
Like a chameleon Chenin has many faces from sweet (molleux), semi sweet (demi-sec) off dry (tendre) dry (sec or brut) and sparkling styles.
Traditionally from the Loire Valley in North Western France, Chenin is a versatile grape with high acidity and minerality.
Depending on the style of Chenin you’re drinking the flavours will range from nutty, floral, honeyed or somewhere between Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay with a bit of peach and apple thrown in. Likewise, use of oak for aging isn't common but is becoming more popular especially in with New World wines.
You may have heard of Vouvray, Coteaux de Layon, or Quarts de Chaume, which are all regions in the Loire Valley producing mostly sweeter styles. If you like dry whites, one of my favies is Savennières, which produces beautiful dry and acidic Chenins of the same name.
A lot of the wines are age worthy; the dry styles open up and the acidity drops with age and the sweet styles become more honeyed and viscous with time in the bottle.
Chenin has had a hard time becoming mainstream and has been widely misunderstood in the marketplace probably because there are many “average” versions out there and, due to French labeling, it’s difficult to figure out what exactly is in the bottle. It (Chenin) also had a bad reputation in the 70’s as being flaccid and flavourless but I am happy to say that with improved techniques and vine management there is much less of that in today’s chenin.
Chenin is my friend for many reasons. They are really food friendly and because of the wide range of styles available are great matches with all types of cuisine.
Meaty dishes and goats cheese for the lighter and dryer styles, Asian and spicy foods for the medium sweet styles, desserts and blue cheeses or the sweeter styles.
Then again, they are just as good drunk on their own.
If you have a mind to try some, try a couple of different ones to find out which style you like. They are not expensive and they are easily drinkable!
South Africa at the moment, for me, is where it’s at for Chenin. They produce mostly still wines and mostly dry but they are more fruit forward and zestier than their French cousins. Great price wise and fantastic for quality. Look for wines from Swartland and Stellenbosch.