Chenin Blanc

Rosi StoyanovaRosi Stoyanova
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Chenin blanc is an old white wine grape variety, originating from the Loire river valley in France. Chenin blanc was first mentioned in documents dating back to the year 845. There exist a number of variations, while the variety is also known as Gros Chenin, Steen, Pineau de la Loire, Pinot Blanco and others.

Chenin blanc is one of the most important white varieties that is grown with varying degrees of success in all of the major winemaking regions of the world. In France they grow about 10 000 ha of the variety, but it's also widespread in California, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, Chile, Mexico, Israel, New Zealand.

The main reason why Chenin blanc is considered a classic white variety worldwide is because of its origin - the Loire valley. In the northern part of the Loire they have made and continue to make some of the most impressive wines of this variety.

Chenin blanc is a late-ripening variety, with its vines growing at a medium rate and having a very high yield. The variety has an average resistance to mold and rot. The grape clusters are medium-sized, cylindrical-conical and dense. The grapes are medium and spherical, yellowish to golden yellow, with a light wax coating.

The skin of the grapes is thin but hard, the inside is juicy. When the grape is attacked by noble rot, it changes its color to an almond-brown, then begins to shrink and the final result is a very sweet grape with a concentrated taste, used to make truly exceptional dessert wines.

Distribution of Chenin Blanc

Chenin blanc has local significance for winemaking in France, this primarily being in the Anjou-Touraine region of the Loire valley. Despite this, during the 70s of the past century about 1/3 of the areas with Chenin blanc were replaced with the very popular at the time Gamay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. In modern times, Chenin blanc is plenty widespread in this region. Chenin blanc is also the most common variety in South Africa.

Its plantation areas make up 19% of the total grapevine areas. The plantations of Chenin blanc in South Africa are 3 times more than in its native France, even though the grape was unknown to South Africa until 1965.

Chenin blanc

Despite the most productive years of Chenin blanc in the country being over, it still has something to offer when it comes to quality. It may never become world famous but it still has to try. South African Chenin blanc impresses with its assorted character and pleasant aroma.

In California there are also more plantations of Chenin blanc in comparison to France. There it is mainly used for blending with the Colombard variety to yield fresh table wines.

Characteristics of Chenin Blanc

Chenin blanc wines have a well defined aroma, a remarkably fruity and colorful aftertaste. In France, it is used to make high quality white wines - dry, sparkling and dessert. These wines are distinguished by their satisfying aromas of flowers, apricots, walnuts and honey. When young, they are fresh and light, while the best of them, after a long period of aging, become exceptionally dry with a honey nuance and unbelievable aftertaste.

In its top form, no matter if we're talking about dry, sweet or semi-dry wines, Chenin blanc is very fresh and mellow but its high acidity is something that those unfamiliar with the sort will have to get used to. In quality wines, Chenin blanc plays a part almost 100% of the time, while in plainer wines, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are allowed. It is thanks to Chenin blanc that the wines of the Loire can boast of their bright character.

Wines from the French appellations which Chenin blanc is part of are supremely high quality and notable, reputed with their own unique individuality. This makes them ideal for people seeking a wine experience far different from the typical.

The only problem with these wines is the fact that they require aging in the bottle, and in the 21st century such white wines do not have much chance of success.


Serving Chenin Blanc

Chenin blanc is an unbelievable white wine that can brag of its universal character when it comes to food. It can be served without a problem with Mediterranean food, sushi and even heavier meats such as veal.

The most affordable Californian and South African versions of Chenin blanc can be served with a light fish and noncapricious dishes of poultry. Vegetables, light cheeses and various kinds of appetizers - Chenin blanc makes good company for these, highlighting the taste and aroma of the dish.

But whatever you decide to serve Chenin blanc with, an important requirement for its taste characteristics is to have it sufficiently cooled.


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