Wine Talk

Snooth User: Sommelier00

Chenin Blanc? How familiar are you with this versatile wine?

Posted by Sommelier00, Jun 9, 2009.

Hello all,

Just joined Snooth, probably should have some while ago, regardless discussing Chenin Blanc has been on my mind for sometime. As a Sommelier, and HUGE fan of South Africa's vinous treasures, I am very familiar with the Chenin Blancs of the new world.

That being said, I came across this nice article about Chenin Blanc and wanted to see what other wine enthusiasts in the online world think.

How familiar are you with Chenin? What brands are standouts to you? Whatever your thoughts on Chenin, I would love to hear.



Reply by Philip James, Jun 9, 2009.

I don't think Chenin gets as much press and publicity in the US as it should. I must have tasted over 10,000 wines in the last few years and have had less than 50 Chenin Blancs. For a wine of such potential, such structure and such variety, thats a pretty poor showing on my behalf.

Reply by dmcker, Jun 9, 2009.

When I first started drinking wine, way back during college days, I drank a lot of whites, and especially sweeter whites or those with very distinctive flavor profiles. That meant a lot of German and Alsatian whites, rieslings and gewurtztraminer especially, and the same varietals in California. And a lot of chenin blanc. Would visit wineries, and those were the varietals I always tried first. I started with the California versions then moved to the old world versions, and stopped going back to the new world for those varietals because what was commonly served then in California was often insipid and off-balance (too sweet with insufficient acidity) when compared to the 'originals'. Recognizing this I then proceeded to drink a lot more old world wine and many other varietals, especially from Bordeaux and Burgundy, before I revisited California, with my tastes indelibly changed. This meant no more drinking of California chenin blanc, at that time anyway, and I can't remember the last time I had a new world chenin blanc (I think it was a bad experience with a New Zealand bottle a friend forced on us at the wrong time in an evening of serious drinking, which certainly didn't make me think differently of the varietal from those environs, nor, I suppose, of my friend's wine sense).

I have, however, continued to enjoy (the word is insufficient) chenin blanc from the Loire. Many, many Vouvrays, and most any Savennieres I run across, especially La-Roche-aux-Moines and Coulée de Serrant. Haven't had much botrytized chenin blanc, but that's merely because I don't often run across it. I have also enjoyed many Cremant de Loire and sparkling wines from Saumur, and I suppose a number of Blanquette de Limoux sparklers down in Languedoc as well, but the chenin blanc component in those is way less.

I am quite interested in encountering better versions of the varietal from more enlightened new world winemakers. I suppose I haven't hunted for any because the world (and its wines) is so large, widespread and varied, and I've kept busy discovering and enjoying so many other wines. Thus I'll be very interested to see what might appear in this thread!

Reply by Uwe Kristen, Jun 9, 2009.

It can be bone-dry, it can be as sweet as nectar. Or any shade inbetween. I think it's impossible to not like Chenin Blanc. But not many are willing to try it, it seems.

Reply by Robert Dallas Gray, Jun 10, 2009.

It's variable as well as versatile -- I had a couple of rather uninspiring Vouvrays recently -- one just sweet with not much Chenin character, and one dry and the same. I've also had some absolutely stunning Savennières -- resinous and honey-tasting, unbelievably full.

New-world wise, I'm a recent convert to South African Chenin blends, especially those made or influenced by Eben Sadie, like these:

Sadie seems to be infulenced by Rhône and southern French whites, subbing Chenin where Viognier might normally predominate. The wines are amazing.

Reply by stellag, Jul 5, 2009.

I am new to Snooth and this is my first post. I'd like to know how long one can cellar a Vouvray. I've had some in the cellar for a couple of years now and am not sure how long to keep it. Suggestions welcome.

Reply by fibo86, Jul 5, 2009.

This is a great grape and I haven't had a chance to try a South African Chenin yet, although this has become a bit of a mission to find a few different labels......It won't happen over night, but it will happen.
Also have had a few of the cremant de Loire and as with dmcker also a few Saumur.
Just recently in the intermeadiate wset coarse (which I'd highly recommend) we we're lucky enough to have a five y/o Vouvray that was slightly botrytized and it was golden in colour, a full wonderful bouquet and an intensely rich and complex but not overly heavy palate, admittedly it is one of those wine that I will never forget and will look for again.I have tried a few Vouvray's but nothing quite as interesting as the one we had in class. I love all aspects of this variety.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jul 6, 2009.

We'll be tasting a few soon. A real promising start in South Africa where I expect we'll see Chenin surpass Sauvignon Blanc in popularity soon and of course some of the Loire valley stickies are among the handful of the world's finest. Even a few producer in California have had success with Chenin, Pine ridge for example as well as Dry Creek Vineyards and Daniel Gehrs. I love a good chenin, dry, off-dry or sweet they are complex yet delicate wines with great nuance. Time for me to go out and buy a few bottles!

Reply by GregT, Jul 6, 2009.

Interesting question because I decided to learn a little more about it this summer. I've had a number from South Africa and for the most part they weren't inspiring. Had a few from Washington state and CA. THere aren't that many producers of the grape. I think that partly it's because it doesn't have an overt personality. Much like chardonnay actually, but chardonnay was lucky in that it got the KJ oak treatment and with that came to establish itself as the white wine for the US. Plus it's got a beautiful name.

Chenin can be a little austere, doesn't have the grass and apple of sauvignon blanc, nor the buttery toasty qualities of archtypical American chardonnay. I think it's best from the Loire and the botrytized wines from the Loire are some of the best I've had. They can almost rival Tokaji-aszu and in some respects, chenin blanc reminds me a little bit of furmint.

But I think more people should work with chenin blanc. THere is a pretty good one produced in Long Island by Paumonok vineyards - I think it's the only one there but it's better than most of what gets made there. I've had some from Idaho and British Columbia. No reason it can't make a great wine.

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