The Charm of Chenin Blanc...
Chenin Blanc is a difficult winegrape – slow to ripen and often both highly acidic and very high in sugars – but it can also make some of the world’s most age-worthy white wines. Today’s most widely available Chenin Blancs are drink-now kind of wines, dry but very fruity.
The grape is most closely associated with a wide range of Old World styles from dry table wine though off-dry marvels and charming sparkling wines to sweet dessert elixirs, in the most traditional manner, in France’s Loire Valley.
In the New World’s vineyards Chenin Blanc is often the unacknowledged understudy to a variety of white blends because it can be encouraged to produce large volumes of grapes. It is the most widely planted single winegrape variety in South Africa, where it is better known as Steen.
Winemakers and committed conservationists Jeremy and Emma Borg established South Africa's Painted Wolf Wines in 2007. Inspired by the cooperative social dynamics of African wild dog packs, they brought together a ‘pack’ of passionate grape growers, artists and conservationists.
Painted Wolf 'The Den' Chenin Blanc (364539) $13.40 is richly and generously fruity. Quite luscious, it also has a refreshing degree of naturally bright acidity. Expect crisp apple, pear and honeyed melon flavours with a rich, almost unctuous mouth-feel and a long busy finish.
Right here in British Columbia Inniskillin Okanagan’s Discovery series wines explore winegrape varieties relatively uncommon in the Okanagan Valley. Winemaker Derek Kontkanen, explains: “My passion is to make the best wine possible, utilizing the latest technology and traditional methods while respecting the varietal characteristics of the fruit.”
Green apple and fresh-cut peach aromas and flavours are most obvious on first sipping Inniskillin Discovery Series Chenin Blanc (273573) $15.65. It has a dry Old World style - crisp acidity balanced beautifully with bright stone fruit. As it warms in the glass, it develops voluptuous cantaloupe flavours.
With the zingy and sweet popularity of the South African style more targeted at newer, younger wine lovers, the traditional French wines are almost out-of-fashion. Pity! Vouvray is the largest white wine appellation in the
Anjou-Saumur-Touraine region, creating a wide variety of styles of Chenin Blancs.
Since 1885 Famille Bougrier has been making wine in the Loire Valley, France. Wonderfully golden coloured with fruit salad aromas of pears, peaches and tropical fruits Bougrier Vouvray Chenin Blanc (60525) $17.80 is casually off-dry without being too sweet. All white wines should taste this good!
Road 13 Vineyards is in the Okanagan Golden Mile - a mere six percent of the total planted vineyard acres in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. The Luckhurst Family took over what was Golden Mile Cellars in the fall of 2003. Mick Luckhurst was born in Port Alberni, Vancouver Island.
Ripe melon, grapefruit, and honey lead the aromas and flavours of Road 13 ‘Chip Off the Old Block’ Chenin Blanc (837963) $17.90. A blend of 96 per cent Chenin Blanc and 4 per cent Chardonnay, it has sassy, fat and filled-out apple, pear and melon fruit before lingering into a long, zingy finish.
Michael Beaulac, winemaker at California’s Pine Ridge Vineyards: “It was 20 years ago that we married Chenin Blanc with Viognier, and our knees buckled when we tasted how deliciously these two varietals worked together. We harvest our Chenin Blanc early to ensure the fruit retains a good amount of natural acidity. The Viognier, on the other hand, is harvested once the fruit fully ripens.”
Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier (176537) $22.75 weds 80 per cent Chenin Blanc and 20 per cent Viognier. Lusciously rich and remarkably refreshing, it boasts: “… fresh lemon, juicy honeydew melon, pomelo and sweet
mango, complemented by soft orange blossom and carnation floral notes”. Absolutely and remarkably tasty!
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