Chenin Blanc truly is the Cinderella of the wine industry, a shy grape, with no immediately outstanding features. If you’ve ever seen a bunch on the vine – a medium sized handful of grapes, quite green but tending to yellow gold if they’ve seen some sunshine, a tightly packed cluster of round berries – inviting and you might pop a few grapes into your mouth, crisp, full, inviting, juicy but with no uniquely prominent outstanding flavour or scent. No “cats pee on a gooseberry bush”, no deep earthy notes, no fresh cut grass/mown hay – in fact quite neutral grape juice. Beguiling yes, but obvious and instantly uniquely recognisable? – no not really.
So very unique that it is unremarkable!? Can this be the belle of the ball!?
But wait – unlike our beloved dogs, or “man’s best friend“ Chenin shows no obvious love on demand, it’s altogether way more feline, more cautious and seemingly unwilling to simply openly brandish love and foist devotion, or show it’s true feelings to anyone. Mysterious and patient, never obvious, but so refined and deeply satisfying that you unknowingly feel the need to experience it again that faint beguiling beauty – such is the true nature of Chenin.
What to expect from Chenin Blanc?
The great wines, once they’ve been in bottle for a year, show flavours of white fruit, think of crunchy pears, green apples and in warmer climates perhaps even baked apple with hints of caramel or ripe melon.
On the palate, yes finally we get to drink the wine!! Here we find a soft richness, punctuated with bright freshness, yes Chenin has the most amazing texture and texture is all important – all those foods that you love and perhaps hate – often. It is all about the texture. The same applies to the clothes we wear; Chenin is chic, silky, rich and bright, in short delicious!!
Chenin Blanc comes in many guises, as variable as Chardonnay in fact. Think of the brightest, freshest Chablis and the richest Meursault or a Californian butter bomb, all of this is possible with Chenin Blanc even the most delightful, unctuously deliciously concentrated sweet wines, Golden in colour and almost reduced to the very essence of the grape – delectably paired with ripe blue cheese, a slice of the richest foie gras or a berry sabayon!
Such awesome variety and opportunity and yet when it comes to a simple curry, Chenin Blanc is possibly the best matched pairing ever. The curry prickles the Chenin, seemingly to enhance the fruit and apple tart-sweetness while the Chenin virtually resets the palate and neutralises the heat, a wonderful pairing indeed.
Chenin fresh and unoaked as a sunset tipple or as you’re getting dinner ready, with dinner perhaps a lightly oaked Chenin delicious with grilled shrimp or seafood and even mussels love Chenin Blanc and don’t forget that most of the Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley is produced as Crémant de Loire – that bright fresh crisp sparkling wine that loves oysters, sunsets, even house parties and socialising! Responsibly!
There is no doubt that you’ll find a favourite Chenin and come up with your very own exquisite pairings. Experiment, be brave it’s almost risk free, you know you’ll find a Chenin Blanc to love.