Poor Chenin Blanc. The darling of the Loire Valley. The most popular wine in the United States during the 1970s. Now all too often thought of as a cheap, sweet wine, often found in a jug.
The Sad Story of the 1970s
In the 1970s, the U.S. wine industry was enamored by how easy it was grow Chenin Blanc grapes and market Chenin Blanc wine. So they went to town! They added sugar to appeal to sweet tooths. They sold it in jugs to appeal to jug lovers ☺ They overproduced it in the vineyards, taking away many of the grape’s distinct characteristics.
The long and short of it is that they grew the grape and produced the wine in an industrial fashion that resulted in a mass-market wine without a lot of character.
The Good News
The good news is that the mass-market Chenin Blanc didn’t eliminate the good Chenin Blanc. It’s quite available and quite wonderful. You just need to look for it.
Chenin Blanc is one of the most versatile wine grape varieties around. It can be used to produce crisp, dry table wines, sweeter table wines, light, sparkling wines, dessert wines and even brandy.
Wine expert Jancis Robinson describes Chenin Blanc as France’s answer to the German Riesling. I like to think of it as a fuller, richer Riesling.
Typical aromas and flavors of Chenin Blanc include apple, lime, pear, honey, honeysuckle, quince, melon, flint, smoke, grass and hay.
Chenin Blanc pairs beautifully with salads, mild to spicy rice dishes, sushi, seafood, poultry and ham.
Finding Chenin Blanc
While Chenin Blanc’s origin is the Loire Valley, there is less Chenin Blanc planted in all of France than in most wine-producing countries of the New World. In South Africa, where it goes by the name of Steen, Chenin Blanc accounts for nearly one third of all grape vines. In California, it is the third most widely planted white wine grape. It is also widely planted in Central and South America and Australia and New Zealand.
Cheers to a happier future for Chenin Blanc!
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
Betty Kaufman, WineShop At Home
I love me some Loire love Chene Blanc as I first started drinking wine was not good. now I find more care and love and quality. Thanks for representing a good grape
A road trip to the Loire Valley might be called for here 🙂
I like Chenin Blanc. I find it a good alternative to foods I would normally pair with a Riesling, but more complex. Not as sweet, but softer than a Chard. Definitely more versatile.
I love the Broadmore. I just might have to pick up a few bottles!
I do too! I didn’t realize what a great wine Chenin Blanc is. I’m glad to know. I agree with you. I think it’s a great alternative to Riesling.
Right on Betty!
The story of Chenin in Australia is a little similar. The variety’s reputation is slightly tainted by the cask wine association. (we don’t call them jug wines down under)
About 140 wineries produce wine from chenin in Australia, mainly in Western Australia where it often appears in blends along with one or more of Verdelho, Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon.
Thanks for the update on Australia. Very interesting – but not surprising 🙂 It’s good to know that you use the word cask down under. Cheers to you!
I have come back to Chenin Blanc my history was sordid as one of the first wines I had. Lord I needed more exposure because about 8 months back at a party and had superb CB so I apologize to this grape and celebrate now as one of those whites we should respect
Alan, you are hysterical. I will join you in apologizing to Chenin Blanc. But we couldn’t really help it. We weren’t introduced to the “real” Chenin Blanc 🙂