Chenin Blanc Chenin Blanc associated with the Loire Valley, one of the key wine regions of France. It has been cultivated in France for nearly 1300 years. It was first mentioned in France as early as 845. It is known for being highly acidic, that means it can be used to make sparkling wines to well balanced dessert wines, however the renewed interest has change its position to a classic and versatile grape variety. It is also planted outside of France, South Africa as the largest grower and producer, where it is known as Steen.

Chenin Blanc History

Chenin Blanc was also the first varieties of grape grown in 1655; however it was misidentified in countries like Australia, so tracing its exact history is not easy. Some believe Chenin Blanc may have been introduced in James Busby’s collection of 1832.  In South Africa it immediately gained popularity for its productivity and its quality of maintaining high acidity, even in a hot climate. In cooler regions, the juice is sweet with tropical fruits aroma, but is high in acid, though in northern France, grapes that are less ripened, they are high in acid, and that acidity is then used to make popular sparkling wines as Cremant de Loire. White wines such as Anjou AOC are a dry expression of Chenin Blanc, where as Vouvray AOC aim for an off-dry style, which develop honey and floral qualities as they age. The buds of the Chenin Blanc grape ripen late which is does not work for the cool Loire Valley’s climate. There are six clonal varieties that increase sugar development during the ripening and harvesting phase. These six varieties have been officially sanctioned by the French government. The age of vine determines the wine quality; older vines produce lower yields, that are often caused by nobel rot; a type of fungus that infects the wine grapes.  Infected Chenin Blanc grapes then increases the intensity of some of the present flavors, and the wine ends up losing its natural floral aroma.

Chenin Blanc Quality

The quality of the wine all depends on the care taken in the vineyard. When Chenin Blanc grapes are harvested too early, the high acidity will ruin the end product.   Winemakers need to take into account the optimal ripeness and balance between acidity and sugars; many growers will harvest the grapes by picking out the best one. In every round they will pick out the ripest clusters by hand, this process could go on for four to six weeks.  During each round, the grapes are harvested keeping in mind the style of wine and the style are decided on a day to day basis.

Chenin Blanc Flavor

The flavor notes of Chenin Blanc are minerals, honey, and a tropical fruit aroma with floral characteristics. The flavor has descriptors of greengage; a fruit that belongs to the group of Europe plums and angelica; a biennial plant which is cultivated for its edible stem root and fragrance.  The variety from the Loire tends to have the mineral flavor, while those from South Africa are diverse in fruit flavors; fruits that include melon, pineapple and banana. Malolactic fermentation is not popular for this wine, since it compromises on its crispness; however certain wines such as Montlouis and Vouvray tend to use this technique. Chenin Blanc wines are light and smooth with an attribute of aging. Some of these wines are required to age for a decade to hit their peak in terms of flavor and taste. The sparkling wine made out of Chenin Blanc is a lot less expensive than Champagne but it serves the purpose equally well. Use it with oysters as an appetizer or all the way through to sweet deserts. On the other hand off-dry ones that is the sweet style can be paired with spicy dishes especially Asian and Thai cuisines. The balance that Chenin Blanc possesses of acid and medium dry style can be combined with rich cream sauces and ground meat dishes like Pate’.