Every wine is worth celebrating...
Therefore it’s fun to acknowledge the wine holidays throughout the year, especially those that shine a light on lesser-known wines. Chenin Blanc is one of those wines. Thus, to get ready for the holiday here’s a little insight into selecting a Chenin Blanc that suits your style.
The Loire Valley of France is where this wine varietal is best known since its grape is native to this region. Within the Loire Valley there are two primary areas producing Chenin Blanc—Vouvray and Savennières. Previously we discussed France, as well as most old-world wine regions, will not write “Chenin Blanc” on the bottle. Rather the name of the place appears on the bottle which indicates what the wine is. Hence, if you see Vouvray or Savennières then you know the wine in the bottle is Chenin Blanc.
Vouvray can be sweet to dry and anywhere in the middle. For me, it was the next stop after Riesling in my wine evolution. So, if like me you started your wine journey with a sweet wine, but our looking to expand, Vouvray is a good first step. It will offer similar body with bright acidity, as well as honey notes like Riesling. Sometimes the producer will include on the label the sweetness level as dry, off-dry or sweet, but if not, just ask your local wineshop professional.
If you prefer dry wines, then try a Savennières. These are full body white wines that will have detectable aromas of apple and honey, but they are not sweet on the palate. Some might equate them to a chardonnay because they are full body and can have similar fruit characteristic, but these wines are much brighter and tend to lack the butter notes associated with many chardonnays.
And on the heels of studying sparkling wines, I can’t neglect to mention Crémant de Loire, which is a sparkling wine made primarily from Chenin Blanc. These bubbles are typically brut and crisp with apple and citrus notes. If you like bubbles, these are worth trying and will be much more reasonable than Champagnes.
If you want to celebrate Chenin Blanc Day with New World wine regions, then travel to South Africa where you’ll find some delicious Chenin Blanc that will have more intense fruit aromas and flavors, but typically lack the honey characteristics of the Loire Valley Chenin.
While there used to be a great deal of plantings throughout California, no longer is this true. However, several producers are bringing it back into fashion. Most are blending it, but there are a few producers making it the star like Chappellet. (Our friends at Wine Snob* also make a delicious 75% Chenin Blanc/25% Chardonnay blend.)
Oysters are the quintessential pairing with Savennières. A sweet Vouvray is perfect as a dessert wine served with a bowl of fresh summer fruit. And all the styles will match up to a cheese plate. When I first fell in love with an off-dry Chenin, I craved it with a spinach salad topped with feta, spiced pecans, and dried cranberries.
Regardless of which style you choose to celebrate Chenin Blanc Day, the best things to pair it with are friends!