Up next on our alphabetical challenge is Chenin Blanc, a white grape that doesn’t get much attention here domestically, but it is one that is definitely worthy of shelf space in your cellar or wine closet.
Chenin Blanc Profile
The Loire Valley in central France is the native home for Chenin Blanc. Known for its magnificent castles and the Loire River, the Loire Valley is also known as the Garden of France, thanks to the fertile banks of the river. It has several wine regions, with Chenin Blanc as one of its most notable grapes. Chenin Blanc has a genetic link to Savignan, and likely shares a sibling relationship to Sauvignon Blanc, the other leading white grape of the Valley.
Chenin Blanc is a fascinating, versatile varietal. It can be bone dry, slightly sweet, or even on the dessert-sweet spectrum. And, Chenin Blanc can also be found as a sparkling or still wine. Regardless of where it falls stylistically on the dry to sweet meter – or bubbles or not – it shimmers with acidity.
A common characteristic of Chenin Blanc is honey, which is why even the driest Chenin Blanc may be construed as slightly sweet. But, it can feature different fruit profiles. For example, a dry Chenin Blanc may be accented with tart fruit, like green apple or an under ripe pear, while a sweet version may reflect notes of mango or peach.
What to Pair it With
As we near Thanksgiving, this is a fantastic white wine that pairs well with turkey and other traditional Thanksgiving menu items (in our household this includes spicy sausage stuffing). It also is a good companion for Asian cuisine, whose spicy, fragrant, and sweet and sour flavors balance the acidity and enhance the tart or sweet fruit, whichever is present in the selected bottle.
The Featured Bottle
Kelly and Rob from Tacoma Wine Merchants, who are hosting our alphabetical challenge, chose the 2019 Manoir de la Tete Rouge Saumur Tete d’Ange. This was a dry Chenin Blanc that had a quiet nose in the beginning that slowly became more aromatic in the glass. Tart green apple tickled the palate, and it ended with a honeysuckle finish. Saumur, which is featured on the label, indicates the region in the Loire Valley where the grape was sourced.
We paired it with a roasted pork tenderloin, marinated in a Chinese five spice blend that also included hoisin sauce, ginger and soy. A bed of rice noodles and stir-fried bok choy and other vegetables completed the dish. Plates and glasses were completely empty by the end of the night!
Good Chenin Blanc can be found at large wine retailers as well as specialty shops, which may offer more unique bottlings.
Other Interesting Facts about Chenin Blanc
- While also found in California, Chenin Blanc had its start in that state as an underwhelming, cheap jug wine, often used as a blending grape to add acidity.
- In South Africa, Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted variety, and it accounts for 50% of the global Chenin Blanc vineyards.
- Because of its acidity, Chenin Blanc is an age-worthy wine.