Chenin Blanc

By | June 9, 2007

Chenin Blanc is a funny bugger. It has huge plantings in California and Australia, though is rarely produced as a varietal there. South Africa churns out tonnes of it either as Chenin Blanc or as Steen, it’s local name, but only in the Loire, and even then only in a teeny stretch around Tours is it any good.

It buds early and ripens late, making it an even odder choice for the northern limits ofFrench viticulture. In the central Loire it can make delicious and long lasting dry wines with flavours of honey and straw which intensify wondrfly as the years tick by. Loire winemakers also make creations of every level of sweetness from off dry gluggables to wonderfully luscious over ripe, rotten sweeties. Loire Cremants add sparkle to Chenin.

Elsewhere it’s used to add acidity to blends, or simply to stretch out a more popular varietal like Chardonnay. Many Californian Chardonnays have up to 25% of Chenin Blanc lurking within, but don’t expect them to shout about it on the label.