Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Have You Tried Chenin Blanc Lately?

Chenin Blanc is one of those grapes.

You know the grapes I mean. They're the ones that you think you know because once upon a time someone poured you someting out of a giant jug that said it was Chenin Blanc. It was awful, and you've never touched the stuff since.

It's time to try it again.

There are some great value Chenin Blancs in the market right now.

Why should you try Chenin Blanc? Here are three reasons. First, they are versatile food wines because they have good acidity and a slightly off-dry personality that makes them go as well with roast chicken as they do with Kung Pao chicken. Second, they are great values because everybody's bad experiences with Chenin Blanc has made them head straight for the Chardonnay. The result? Chenin Blancs deliver excellent QPR. And third, Chenin Blanc is grown throughout the world. What this means is that you can find Chenin Blanc from almost any region, and at almost any pricepoint.

Today, I'm focusing on two new releases of Chenin Blanc--one from the US and one from South Africa. Both are excellent QPR choices, that deliver abundant varietal characteristics at a very attractive price. And both are widely available.

The first is the 2007 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc from Clarksburg. I received this as a sample, but you should be able to find it near you for between $9 and $14. The wine had honeyed melon aromas that were rich and enticing without being heavy or cloying. These aromas gave the wine a sweet impression, but flavor-wise it as dry and crisp with Meyer lemons, melon, and herb notes. What most impressed me about this wine was that it continued to open up and develop in the glass over the course of our evening. Sometimes it seemed more melony, then the herbs would kick in and surprise you. We enjoyed this with spicy food, and I would particularly recommend it to those of you who are looking for something to go with Indian or Southeast Asian food.

The second wine I enjoyed was the 2008 Sebeka Chenin Blanc from South Africa. This was also a sample, but near you expect to pay between $5 and $9. This snappy Chenin Blanc had lots of pineapple and tropical fruit flavors and aromas. The intensity of the fruit was kept in balance by lots of acidity, and the wine left a slightly sweet impression in your mouth. This bottle we popped open to enjoy with fish tacos and mango salsa and it was excellent. But it would also be a terrific choice if you were just looking for a refreshing white wine to serve to friends before dinner.

These days most of us are looking for ways to stretch our money a little bit further without sacrificing great taste. Here are two wines that will enable you to do just that. Give Chenin Blanc a try, even if you swore off the stuff in 1982. It really is time to give it a second chance.


HRae said...

I may also suggest the Ballentine Chenin Blanc out of Oakville/Rutherford, CA area. We discovered it in '05 on a visit there and I've been in love with Chenin's ever since. I've only ordered it online or traveled home with it so I'm not sure where it can be obtained locally... but it's a must have for Chenin fans

Richard Auffrey said...

I recently had an excellent Chenin Blanc from Long Island, NY. It is made by Paumanok vineyards and they are the only LI winery to make Chenin Blanc. It is not cheap, at $28, but I thought it was exceptional and I bought a couple bottles of it.

South Africa also makes some excellent Chenin Blanc and selected the 2007 Cederberg Chenin Blanc (less than $15) for a wine dinner I am cohosting with a local restaurant in early November.

Director, Lab Outreach said...

I wonder whether Chenin suffers as much from it's enigma as it's historic association with the jug? You don't always know if you're getting dry, off-dry or moelleux. Or maybe this is less of a problem outside the Loire...

Where there are a number of producers that do mind-boggling and sublime things with this grape.

Francois Chidaine's wines are as elegant and complex as anything in Burgundy and are, by comparison, inexpensive. Marc Angeli is simply a genius. Even the lower end of the Joly catalog has potential for rewarding adventure.

I could go on...

Good timing too, especially with the richer, somewhat sweeter, Chenins, I think Fall is the perfect time to drink them. Maybe it's the wooly character sometime expressed by the grape, but I always associate Chenin Blanc with sweater wearing?

Doc, you've whetted my appetite. Need to quickly think of an experiment that will justify opening something at this inappropriate hour of the morning! Thanks!!

Orion Slayer said...

I'm really fortunate to live close to Clarksburg, CA where they once were famous for Chenin Blanc - in a good way. One I have tried and enjoyed is the 2005 Late Harvest Chenin Blanc from Carvalho winery. This wine was dry and had great flavor. A well done Chenin Blanc is a nice wine!

Director, Lab Outreach said...

Orion, Late Harvest and Dry is an unexpected, if intriguing, combination (and also proves my point, just by the way). Going to have to see if I can't find a bottle for examination in the Lab.

Unknown said...

the pine ridge viognier-chenin blanc is great.

Richard Auffrey said...

Asimov just ran an article on Chenin Blanc.

Joe Roberts said...

I just sucked down a very decent Vouvray last night!

Dr. Debs said...

I see we're all on the Chenin Blanc vibe these days! Thanks for all the great tips. And, Orion Slayer, welcome back.

RougeAndBlanc said...

For a few dollar moner, I would rather drink Chenin Blanc from France, while US & South African versions taste varietally correct, they are not long ager.
My favorite producer is Huet, his Vouvray is really, really good.