Curious to know all about Chenin Blanc wine?
If you’ve tasted the velvety smooth Quarts de Chaume, or a refreshing orange blossom flavored Saumur, then you’ve experienced the magic of Chenin Blanc!
Chenin Blanc is often seen as a utility grape rather than the incredibly versatile varietal it could be. But thanks to efforts from winemakers and sommeliers who recognize its value and potential, Chenin Blanc has been growing in popularity.
What makes Chenin Blanc unique, and why should you try it?
In this article, we’ll explore the grape, its history and regions, its wine styles, taste, and food pairing. We’ll also look at some of its best expressions, and the easiest way to buy these wines.
This Article Contains
(Click on a link below to jump to a specific section)
- The Versatile Chenin Blanc Grape
- A Brief History of the Chenin Blanc Grape
- The Chenin Blanc Grape and Viticulture
- Chenin Blanc Wine Styles and Taste Profile
- Where is Chenin Blanc Grown?
- Winemaking with Chenin Blanc
- Food Pairing with Chenin Blanc Wines
- Lush, Expressive Chenin Blanc Wines to Buy in 2021
- Philippe Foreau Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Moelleux 'Goutte d'Or' 1990
- Clos Rougeard Saumur Blanc Brézé 2010
- Domaine Huet Vouvray 'Cuvée Constance' Moelleux 2003
- Richard Leroy Anjou Les Noëls de Montbenault 2004
- Mullineux 'Olerasay' Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2018
- Stéphane Bernaudeau Les Nourrissons 2015
- The Sadie Family Die Ouwingerdreeks 'Mev. Kirsten' Chenin Blanc 2016
- Stéphane Bernaudeau Les Terres Blanches 2013
- Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur Noble Late Harvest 1977
The Versatile Chenin Blanc Grape
Chenin Blanc is a white grape that originated in the Anjou region of France’s Loire Valley.
It’s an offspring of the white wine grape Savagnin from the Jura region and shares a sibling relationship with the Trousseau and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
Its name comes from Mont Chenin in Touraine, a wine region that lies to the east of Anjou.
It also has other names including Pineau de la Loire, Pineau d’Anjou, Chenin, and Steen.
Chenin Blanc produces a wide range of wines from, dry, sparkling to sweet.
Let’s take a look at its origins before we dive into more details about the wine.
A Brief History of the Chenin Blanc Grape
The earliest mentions of Chenin Blanc were in two royal land grants of Charles the Bald in 845. This was detailed in records of the Abbey of Glanfeuil, describing the grape growing along the Loire River banks.
Chenin Blanc wines were already established by the 1500s, as they were mentioned glowingly by French writer, Francois Rabelais, in his writings.
In 1655, Dutch navigator Jan van Riebeeck brought grapevine cuttings with him, including Chenin Blanc, to the Cape Colony in South Africa. Here, it is known as “Steen,” where it eventually became South Africa’s signature white grape.
California planted it throughout much of the 20th century but used it mainly as a cheap blending grape.
It’s taken time for Chenin Blanc’s potential to be recognized in the New World. Today, it continues to thrive in South Africa, and interest has re-sparked in California as winemakers experiment with this fascinating grape.
The Chenin Blanc Grape and Viticulture
Chenin Blanc grapes have many positive traits. Here’s why this grape is so special:
1. It’s versatile
The vine grows in many types of soil. This versatile grape can be vinified into any kind of wine, from full-bodied, still dry wines to honeyed sparkling wines. It also gets affected by noble rot (botrytis cinerea) in the right conditions, producing sweet dessert wines.
2. It’s high in acidity
Thanks to Chenin Blanc’s high acidity, it is well-suited to producing sparkling wines. In a dry wine, its acidity adds a refreshing taste with pronounced minerality, and in dessert wines, the acidity balances the sweetness.
3. It is expressive of terroir
The Chenin Blanc grape is like a blank slate.
- In France, Loire Valley winemakers produce expressive Chenin Blanc wines that reflect the different terroir where the grapes are grown.
- A vineyard with well-drained and sandy soils produces lighter styles of wine.
- And where schist is plentiful in the vineyard, Chenin Blanc will ripen earlier than soils with clay.
Chenin Blanc Viticulture
Chenin Blanc grapes are yellow-green and hang in a conical bunch. It’s an early-budding but late-ripening grape variety, with naturally high yields. Growers have to keep its yields under control to allow flavors to concentrate in the grape.
Optimal ripeness and balance between sugars and acidity are crucial to the different styles of Chenin Blanc wines.
Its ripeness can be uneven, so growers harvest the grapes in successive pickings called “tries.” This is a labor-intensive process, but it allows winemakers to produce different styles of wine from the same vine.
So, what are the different styles of Chenin Blanc wine?
Also read: The ancient grape variety, Muscat, and its delicious Moscato wines!
Chenin Blanc Wine Styles and Taste Profile
Chenin Blanc might be the only grape, apart from Riesling, that can be vinified in so many ways.
Chenin Blanc wine styles range from austere to rich, with flavors ranging from fruity apple, guava and honeydew melon to oaky butterscotch and nutmeg.
1. Dry Chenin Blanc
Lean and dry Chenin Blanc is tart, mineral-infused with flavors of pear, quince, chamomile, and ginger. The dry wines from Vouvray are labeled as “Sec” and are sometimes a little smoky. The lean wines of Savennieres often feature green apples.
2. Off-Dry Chenin Blanc
Off-dry (demi-sec) Chenin Blanc wines have a little bit of residual sugar, which converts to flavors of ripe pear, jasmine, passion, and honeycomb. Off-dry Vouvray wines develop floral and honey characteristics as they age.
3. Sweet Chenin Blanc
Sweet Loire Valley Chenin Blanc can mostly be found within the Coteaux du Layon region (which encompasses the smaller Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux regions), or those labeled as “Moelleux” wines from Vouvray.
These wines are made from late-harvest grapes and have notes of ginger, tropical fruit, marmalade, and honeycomb. Grapes affected by noble rot produce an intense, viscous dessert wine with notes of saffron and smoke.
Sparkling Chenin Blanc can range from dry (Brut) to sweet (Demi-Sec) styles. These wines are usually carbonated in the méthode traditionnelle (undergo a secondary fermentation process inside the bottle, producing bubbles), displaying Chenin’s classic characteristics of quince, ginger, yellow apple, and floral notes.
Now let’s see where this adaptable grape grows.
Where is Chenin Blanc Grown?
Chenin Blanc’s versatility allows it to thrive in many places. However, it achieves its highest expression in the Loire Valley of France!
1. Loire Valley, France
In the Loire Valley, white wine from Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne grapes represent the majority of the wine production.
The lesser percentage of red wines are mainly made of Cabernet Franc, with smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Pinot Noir and Malbec.
Here are some of the most well-known appellations producing Chenin Blanc:
- Vouvray: The versatility of the Chenin Blanc grape is well-demonstrated in this region, from the cold vintage sparkling wines to off-dry “demi-sec” or sweet “moelleux” styled warm vintages.
- Montlouis sur Loire: Montloius also produces dry, off-dry, sweet, and sparkling wines from Chenin Blanc.
- Saumur: Saumur’s limestone soils give Chenin Blanc grapes a bright acidity. Winemakers here use barely ripe grapes to produce Saumur’s famed sparkling wines.
- Crémant de Loire: This appellation in Anjou-Saumur is popular for its champagne-method sparkling wine from Chenin Blanc.
- Quarts de Chaume: Located in Anjou, this is the only grand cru appellation in Loire Valley. The wines are sweet and made from grapes that may be affected by noble rot.
- Bonnezeaux: This appellation lies to the east of Quarts de Chaume and makes sweet dessert wines from Chenin Blanc.
- Savennières: To the west of Chaume, Savennières produces fantastic, dry, age-worthy Chenin Blanc.
Read more: The 10 most desirable Sparkling wines in the world!
2. South Africa
When Chenin Blanc’s travels to the New World brought it to South Africa, it immediately became a hit for its high yields and ability to produce high acidity even in hot conditions.
Because it grew easily, it quickly spread across the country. Today, South Africa has the highest acreage of Chenin Blanc in the world.
Much of South African Chenin Blanc juice went into brandy production or used with other grapes like Chardonnay to make a white blend. However, its widespread availability allowed winemakers to experiment, creating a dry, crisp wine similar to Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
Nowadays, fine, crisp, unoaked versions of Chenin Blanc are made in the regions of Stellenbosch, Swartland, and the coastal region. And the high proportion of old vines produce wines of deep, concentrated tropical flavors.
3. United States
Chenin Blanc is grown throughout the United States, including patches in Texas and New York. However, the largest acreages are found in the California wine regions of Clarksburg, Napa Valley, and Mendocino.
California Chenin Blanc often has ripe fruit flavors with a hint of residual sugar, and some of the best varietal wines come from Clarksburg.
4. Other wine regions
Chenin Blanc is also grown in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Brazil, where it’s commonly used as a blending grape. You’ll even find Chenin Blanc plantings in India and Thailand.
Winemaking with Chenin Blanc
The major difference between Old World and New World winemaking with Chenin Blanc lies in the fermentation temperature.
Loire Valley producers ferment their Chenin Blanc at warmer temperatures 60-68 °F (16-20 °C), while countries like South Africa ferment theirs at a cooler 50-54 °F (10-12 °C). The cooler temperature produces more vivid tropical fruit flavors and aromas that Loire Valley producers tend to avoid.
Chenin Blanc juice can be fermented in many types of vessels, including stainless steel, cement, fiberglass, and old or new oak. For example, Chestnut and acacia are used in Savenniéres to avoid the vanilla flavors that come from oak.
The Chenin Blanc grape can accommodate some skin contact and maceration, extracting phenolic compounds that add texture and complexity to the wine.
And when the grape’s characteristic acidity is too high, producers often soften it through malolactic fermentation. This gives the wine a creamier, more viscous mouthfeel.
So, what foods can you pair with the different Chenin Blanc wines?
Find out how many calories are in that glass of red wine.
Food Pairing with Chenin Blanc Wines
The high acidity in Chenin Blanc wines makes pairing with food an easy task. Think of the sweetness and body of the wine — these rich textures can go well with richer foods.
The only dishes that might not match are red meat-based. Save your Cabernets for those.
Dry, light-bodied Chenin Blanc, both still and sparkling styles, can go with:
- Salad with goat cheese
- Tuna tartare
- Vegetarian quiche
Drink full-bodied off-dry or oaked Chenin Blanc with heartier meals:
- Fried chicken
- Roast turkey
- Spicy Asian cuisines like Vietnamese or Thai
Sweet Chenin Blanc works well with rich, savory foods:
- Brie, Gruyere or Blue cheese
- Foie gras
- Orchard fruit pastry
So which are the best Chenin Blanc bottles to consider?
Discover the right wine glass for the best wine-drinking experience!
Lush, Expressive Chenin Blanc Wines to Buy in 2021 (Including Taste, Prices)
We’ve rounded up some fine selections of Old World and New World Chenin Blanc wines.
1. Philippe Foreau Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Moelleux 'Goutte d'Or' 1990, Loire, France
This sweet white wine presents a beautiful nose of apricots, molasses, citrus peel, tea, and mandarins-marmalade. It’s rich and lively of tangerine and figs, with a beautiful, acidic finish on the palate.
Price of Philippe Foreau Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Moelleux 'Goutte d'Or' 1990: $650+
2. Clos Rougeard Saumur Blanc Breze 2010, Loire, France
The fragrant nose of this Saumur Blanc is nutty, with aromas of lemon, pear, apple, and stony minerality. The palate is rich but not weighty, the high acidity of wine keeping it linear and lovely.
Price of Clos Rougeard Saumur Blanc Breze 2010: $360+
3. Domaine Huet Vouvray 'Cuvée Constance' Moelleux 2003, Loire, France
This sweet, amber gold wine has a muted nose of orchard fruits, with honey, apricots, and orange marmalade on the palate. It is rich but not cloying, delicious with a medium finish.
Price of Domaine Huet Vouvray 'Cuvée Constance' Moelleux 2003: $250+
4. Richard Leroy Anjou Les Noëls de Montbenault 2004, Loire, France
This 2004 Loire Chenin is a bright yellow with honeyed tones. It offers the aroma and flavor of tropical fruits and nuts, with fresh acidity framing its form.
Price of Richard Leroy Anjou Les Noëls de Montbenault 2004: $340+
5. Mullineux 'Olerasay' Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2018, Swartland, South Africa
This South African Chenin Blanc has a rich, viscous appearance. A complex nose and palate offer the enticing flavors of dried peaches, apricots, honey, and marmalade, ending with a fresh, long finish.
Price of Mullineux 'Olerasay' Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2018: $150+
6. Stéphane Bernaudeau Les Nourrissons 2015, Loire, France
This vintage offers an expressive nose of tangerines, almonds, and jasmine tea. The palate has flavors of tropical fruit, with a balanced acidity and a concentrated, long finish.
Price of Stéphane Bernaudeau Les Nourrissons 2015: $230+
7. The Sadie Family Die Ouwingerdreeks 'Mev. Kirsten' Chenin Blanc 2016, Stellenbosch, South Africa
The 2016 Mev Kirsten has a concentrated nose of ripe stone fruit, pineapple, yellow apple, baking spice, buttered nuts, and candied ginger. A rich mouthfeel is balanced by a fresh and intense acidity.
Price of Sadie Family Die Ouwingerdreeks 'Mev. Kirsten' Chenin Blanc 2016: $150+
8. Stéphane Bernaudeau Les Terres Blanches 2013, Loire, France ($150+)
This Loire Chenin Blanc is produced from very old vines and offers pure aromas of ripe fruit. Its minerality is coupled with gunflint and iodine, followed by tart lemon, apply, and barley. The balance is beautiful, with superb length.
Price of Stéphane Bernaudeau Les Terres Blanches 2013: $150+
9. Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur Noble Late Harvest 1977, Coastal Region, South Africa ($400+)
This South African vintage is rich and intense, with flavors of caramel, marmalade, honey, some fruitiness, and citrus.
Price of Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur Noble Late Harvest 1977: $400+
Explore the best ways to cellar your wine collection to preserve their taste and value for years to come.
Do Chenin Blanc Wines Age Well?
Chenin Blanc wines may have a low profile reputation, but the best examples are undoubtedly age-worthy.
Sweet Chenin Blanc wines are long-lived, capable of aging at least as long as sweet wine from Bordeaux.
The finest vintages from Loire Valley, like sweet Quarts de Chaume or sweet Vouvray, have the potential for decades of cellaring. Some of them, like Domaine Huet’s Le Mont Moelleux Vouvray, can age close to a century - thanks to the grape’s high acidity.
Off-dry Chenin Blanc wines may need about 10 years to reach its peak but can continue to develop for another 20-30 years.
Dry Savennières can age for at least five years with excellent potential for further cellaring. Sparkling Saumur Brut is best had in the first year of release but can last for another 2-3 years after.
What’s the best way to buy these refreshing, intricate wines?
Online wine retailers or wine auctions are an option, but you’d have to do your research for the best prices and make sure the bottles are authentic. You wouldn’t want to end up with a counterfeit wine!
Luckily, there is an easier way.
You could let Vinovest help you buy, store, and even sell your wine - and you’re not limited to Chenin Blanc.
Buy the Best Chenin Blanc and Other Wines through Vinovest
Vinovest is a wine investment company that helps you buy fine collectible wines from anywhere in the world.
With Vinovest, you can buy, store, sell, and authenticate your wine easily!
How Does it Work?
Investing with Vinovest is easy. Follow these four steps to start:
- Sign up on the Vinovest Website.
- Share your investment preferences and risk appetite through a questionnaire.
- Fund your account (minimum $1000).
- View your growing wine portfolio online!
Here’s why you should invest with Vinovest:
1. Easy Buying and Selling with AI-based Technology
Vinovest’s Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven technology makes buying and selling your wines a quick and easy task. It only takes a few clicks!
2. Optimum Prices
Vinovest sources wines directly from wineries, global wine exchanges, and wine auctions so that you get the best price for your bottle.
3. Provenance and Authenticity
Vinovest authenticates and checks the provenance of every single wine bottle before you buy it.
4. High-Performing Portfolio
Vinovest has an expert team of Master Sommeliers and data scientists who will help you build a high-performing wine portfolio with the aid of AI-driven technology and intelligent financial models.
5. Optimal Storage
Vinovest stores your wine in bonded warehouses under optimum conditions of humidity, light, temperature, pressure, and vibration.
6. Insurance and Security
Vinovest stores your wine bottles under 24/7 surveillance with power backups to cover emergencies. Additionally, a comprehensive insurance policy covers all the bottles you buy through Vinovest.
Every bottle you buy through Vinovest is yours.
8. Easy Delivery
Vinovest will deliver bottles to you with no hassle. Selling to someone halfway across the globe? Vinovest delivers to your buyer too!
Chenin Blanc Never Goes Out of Style!
Chenin Blanc is a multifaceted grape, capable of producing a range of expressive wines befitting your wine collection. And, each bottle of Chenin has a tale to tell, reflecting its terroir and the careful hand of its winemaker!
Easily add a Chenin Blanc or any other fine wine to your collection using Vinovest’s intelligent online platform.
So, sign up on Vinovest and start building your wine portfolio today!