A Guide to Chenin Blanc, One of the Most Versatile White Wines
Chenin Blanc has risen to darling status with sommeliers because it is incredibly food-friendly while maintaining interesting, terroir-driven characteristics. It’s not exactly an insider secret, but Chenin Blanc is still ripe for discovery. Learn enough to be dangerous when it comes to this variety with answers to some of the most common questions we get about Chenin Blanc.
Is Chenin Blanc sweet?
It can be. Depending on the winemaking style, Chenin Blanc can be crafted as dry, off-dry, sweet, or sparkling. Most of our favorites are dry, but still exhibit luscious fruit and mouth-watering viscosity. An excellent example is Château de Bonnezeaux 'La Montagne' 2019 (one of Dustin’s Picks!)— it’s bone-dry with incredible zesty acidity, yet the fruit is super forward.
How does Chenin Blanc taste?
Like many other white wines, Chenin is fully influenced by where it’s grown and how it’s made. But some of the most common fruit notes include a range of apple and citrus characteristics, occasionally stone fruit. If oak is used in the cellar, the wine can take on notes of butter, kitchen spice, and bakery. Floral aromatics also add to complexity, with verbena, honeysuckle, or jasmine lifting from the glass.
Where is Chenin Blanc produced?
South Africa and France’s Loire Valley — where Chenin Blanc originated — are the two dominant regions for quality Chenin Blanc. It’s also found in pockets around California and Argentina.
Is Chenin Blanc the same as Vouvray?
Vouvray is made from the Chenin Blanc grape. This is an origin name for wines produced in the Loire appellation of Vouvray. Saumur, Bonnezeaux, and Savennières are some other regional designations. At times the grape is referred to by other names: Steen in South Africa and Pineau de la Loire in France.
What foods pair with Chenin Blanc?
Oh wow, here’s where it gets fun! Chenin Blanc pairs with almost any dish. We love it with poultry, fish, pork, pasta, sushi, and stir fry. It handles all the spices, from cilantro to cinnamon to red pepper flakes. It’s a fine match for most cheeses and nuts too. This variety really shines with veggie dishes, from hearty mushrooms to delicate spring greens. Chenin Blanc is truly a team player on the table, which is one of the reasons many somms adore it. The ultimate white wine, ready for anything from Thanksgiving to summer BBQs to take-out to taco night.
I’m new to Chenin Blanc? What should I try first?
Dustin has included two French bottles in his Dustin’s Picks suggestions, one of which is Thibaud Boudignon’s Savennieres 'Clos de Fremine' 2019, which is an excellent example of complex layers that really shine. We also love the value offered by Arnaud Lambert, a certified organic producer making under-$30 bottles that absolutely exceed expectations. Chateau Yvonne is also one of our favorites for biodynamic, organic, low-intervention purity. Domaine Huet is known to carry the torch for age-worthy Chenin Blanc, a good place to start tasting bottles with some years on their books.
I’m already into Chenin. What’s new that I can try?
Catherine and Pierre Breton make a charming pét-nat called “La Dilettante”— brut, biodynamic, and easy-drinking. Young and talented expat Brendan Stater-West is also up to some very cool stuff in Saumur. We’re big fans of Thierry Germain for natural, biodynamic Chenin Blanc — Kermit Lynch says Germain’s bone-dry Chenins “drink like Chablis young and take on weight slowly over time.”
No one ever gets bored of Chenin, nor is it a variety that floods the shop shelves in bulk. This is truly one of our go-to varieties for constant satisfaction and discovery, and year-round food friendliness doubles the value of nearly any quality bottle. Time to sip some Chenin Blanc!