What is Chenin Blanc Wine?
What if a single versatile white wine could range in flavors and styles from dry mineral tastes to fruity and floral aromas, to dessert wine, to sparkling wine? Can you have it all with just one type?
Chenin Blanc proves you can! It’s the “darling” white wine of France’s Loire Valley, though many may not know how prevalent this grape varietal is.
Get ready to dive into the exquisiteness that is the fine Chenin Blanc wine!
History of Chenin Blanc Wine
From the Loire Valley, France, though also notably grown in South Africa, Chenin Blanc is thought to have originated in the Anjou region around the 9th century.
It was named after Mont Chenin in the early 1500s, a Middle Loire Region east of Anjou. Another white grape known as Plant d'Anjou was also discovered to grow here and is thought to be similar to Chenin Blanc.
In the 20th century, Dutch navigator Jan van Riebeeck sent grape cuttings of Chenin Blanc to Cape Colony. Today, Chenin Blanc is considered the signature white grape varietal of South Africa.
Small quantities of Chenin Blanc are grown in California, but the predominant areas remain in several notable wine regions in France and South Africa.
Chenin Blanc is the half-sibling grape of Sauvignon Blanc and is also related to Bordeaux wine grapes and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Let’s get into the tasting notes of this off-dry, sweet wine and its praised versatility.
What Does Chenin Blanc Taste Like?
Chenin Blanc is known for its high acidity and ability to express the terroir it grows in.
Heavy clay soils produce dessert Chenin Blanc, while sandy soils allow the grape to mature more quickly, resulting in a lighter, more acidic taste.
A mark of Chenin Blanc’s viticulture is that it buds early but ripens late in the harvest year.
It ranges between dry, off-dry, sweet, and sparkling and takes on a pale straw or pale amber color, depending on its type or age.
Most styles of Chenin Blanc take on stone fruit and floral notes with a slightly bitter taste.
We rounded up the different styles of Chenin Blanc wine:
Dry Chenin Blanc
When picked early and fermented dry, Chenin Blanc produces a light, mineral flavor with notes of tart pear, chamomile, and ginger. Think of a very light, steel-fermented Chardonnay crisp with fresh aromas and a flavorful mineral aftertaste. The slightly bitter taste of the dry styles of Chenin Blanc makes it a refreshing summer wine, especially when paired with white fish.
Off-Dry Chenin Blanc
When left on the vine a bit longer and fermented with natural residual sugars, Chenin Blanc will express sweeter notes of honeycomb, ripe pear, and passion fruit. But don’t worry. The aftertaste is still relatively dry compared to the next sweeter type.
Sweet Chenin Blanc
Want something heavier on the sweetness? Nutty almond and dried persimmon notes complement whole tropical fruit like mango, ginger, and mandarin orange. With even more residual sugars than its off-dry counterpart, sweet Chenin Blanc has a slightly syrupy texture with luscious ambrosial nectar aromas that satisfy your sweet tooth’s palate.
Noble rot affects many sweet Chenin Blanc styles, which adds to its intensity. It may even take on a smoky flavor when this method is used.
Sparkling Chenin Blanc
Like Champagne, Sparkling Chenin Blanc ranges from dry to sweet or “Brut” to “Demi-Sec.” Its notes are light, fruity, and floral, with golden plum, yellow apple, quince, and ginger flavors.
Are you thinking of this as an alternative to your favorite Champagne yet? Us too!
Young Chenin Blanc
When young, Chenin Blanc is slightly sour and fruity with a green apple, tart pear, or lemon taste. Some of its dryer types take on an almost veggie-like flavor. This type of Chenin Blanc has the highest acidity of the other types and has the crisp and cleanest taste.
Old Chenin Blanc
After it's aged, expect Chenin Blanc’s acidity to have a more mellow feel. More exotic fruit notes like pineapple and denser honey are prominent in an older Chenin Blanc. It will also take on a dark amber hue with syrupy textures instead of its youthful white or straw-like colors.
Depending on how Chenin Blanc is made and when picked, the white wine will taste very dry and minerally with floral aromas or heavier and sweeter with stone fruit flavors. But one thing that doesn’t change about Chenin Blanc is its high acidity.
But with such wide varieties, which foods taste best with Chenin Blanc?
Chenin Blanc Food Pairings
Due to its high acidity, Chenin Blanc pairs well with most cheeses like goat cheese and provolone. If you’d like our suggestion, it tastes decadent with a chicken salad topped with feta.
Speaking of poultry, Chenin Blanc supports heavy holiday dishes like turkey with cranberry sauce or chicken and gravy. So if you’re not sure what to contribute to your next holiday family meal, bring a bottle of Chenin Blanc!
Sweeter Chenin Blancs perfectly match many Asian cuisines, especially sweet and sour dishes with pork.
Off-dry Chenin Blancs pair nicely with spicy dishes, shellfish, and veal.
Chenin Blanc is delicious with sauteed mushrooms, baked yam, chives, bell pepper, apple, pear, and squash for fruits and vegetables.
Now that we’ve shown you some of the best Chenin Blanc wine pairings, we’ve got just one more thing to cover.
Quarts de Chaume
Exclusive to the Anjou and West Loire Valley districts in France, Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru is a highly respected sweet wine appellation. These esteemed wines are produced only from Chenin Blanc, known as Pineau de la Loire. Created in 1954, this appellation is one of Loire’s most famous and sought-after titles for sweet wine.
This proves that Chenin Blanc is nothing to sneeze at!
A Quietly Esteemed White Wine
With so much versatility and an envied title to match, Chenin Blanc is known for standing independently as a single-varietal wine and being essential to other delicious white wines like German Rieslings.
It remains the “darling” white wine of the Loire Valley, Anjou Valley, and South Africa.
Don’t miss our selection of white and sparkling wines. Visit the Macy’s Wine Shop Insider Blog for more wine industry secrets!