Some Chenin!

australia chenin blanc south africa

Some Chenin!

I’m trying hard to get my head around Chenin Blanc, but it’s a difficult grape to understand. What does Chenin taste like? Very hard to answer. Here are three good examples. But I wouldn’t say these are typical Chenin because I don’t know what typical Chenin is.

Christian Chenin Blanc 2006 Barossa
12% alcohol. Hand picked, basket pressed, barrel fermented in French oak, made by Christian Canute of Rusden. Very interesting wine: subtly toasty, herby, slightly cabbagey with some pear fruit as well as citrus pith freshness. A nice, fresh style. 90/100 (this came from Caviste, Overton)

Spier Private Collection Chenin Blanc 2007 Coastal Region, South Africa
14% alcohol. Full yellow colour. Intense nose of fig, toast and peach with some citrus freshness. The palate has toast and vanilla, but also peach, pear and fruit notes as well as lively citrus freshness. It’s a full-on style, but there’s real interest here. 91/100

Villiera Traditional Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2009 South Africa
14% alcohol. There’s just a hint of botrytis here, adding complexity. Very appley with some herb notes on the nose. The palate is fresh, spicy and fruity (pear, apple) with some apricot richness. A rich yet fresh wine with some complexity. 90/100 (Marks & Spencer)

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7 Comments on Some Chenin!Tagged , ,
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

7 thoughts on “Some Chenin!

  1. We have access to the Spier entry-level CB here and a bargain at $15 Cdn. Very nice Chenin.

  2. How about chenin as a dessert wine? Chenin would not be my first choice of white wine, although there are some good South African examples, but it is top of my list as a desset wine

  3. Before I judged at the Rendez Vous de Chenin in 2004 (international Chenin symposium in the Loire) I bought a selection of fruits I typically associate with Chenin. One of the common threads to the fruit was a bitterness/sourness whcih, for me is an attractive, ennervating aspect of this variety, so quince, apple (close to the core), pear (especially skins), citrus/citrus pith, especially grapefruit, kumquat and physalis. Riper Loire vintages and in the Cape seem to produce more stone fruits, apricot and peach, plus more emphatic honeyed notes which develop with age in cooler years. An interesting grape – I think of it like Riesling as a red wine drinkers grape.

  4. Thanks for the comments Bob and Lisa.
    And, Sarah, the idea of buying fruits is an excellent one. I think you are spot on – but I suppose you should be because this is one of your specialities!

  5. The vogue for barrel-fermenting Chenin (in new wood) creates opulent wines, but it is extinguishes those subtle aromas and two tone flavours and textures that Sarah alludes to. My descriptors tend to be quince, honeydew (when ripe), waxy (apples/pears/lemons) and secondary notes of honey, oatmeal and truffle with age. Chenin from south west tends be very dry with shaved almond notes. Some growers use old barrels and foudres to age their wines, whereby the wine acquires oxidative notes (sherry, scrumpy…) Brilliant sweet wines from Vouvray, Montlouis, Layon and Bonnezeaux. Try also the utterly brilliant straw wine from Mullineux and Ken Forrester’s sweetie. It is an amazing grape variety, highly versatile and critically ignored.

  6. Jamie, please buy yourself a bottle of Savennières if you want to know what Chenin can do for you. To me, the Clos du Papillon from Baumard is quintessential Chenin Blanc (if you are looking for the dry style, that is 😉

  7. Chenin Blanc is a wine you don’t see a whole lot of these days. It used to be really popular about 40 years ago when people were really into the sweeter wines. When grown in California, however, the wine is quite diverse in this respect, ranging from very dry to very sweet, though most fall somewhere in the middle.

    On the whole, it tends to be a lighter-styled white reminiscent of ripe melons and peaches, and is occasionally slightly herbal in the nose. It can also exude citrus notes, most notably, of lime. When grown in California, it tends to be bigger, in South Africa, leaner.

    In Vouvray, France, Chenin takes on completely different flavor profiles of pineapple and spice, and is characterized by a gripping acidity. It can be aged for many years.

    The Ballentine from Napa (a dryer version) is a favorite of mine.

    Paul Kalemkiarian
    President, Wine of the Month Club

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