Answer: It’s always been important in France and is being rediscovered by the cool kids in the U.S.
Chenin Blanc (pronounced SHEN-in BLAHNK) is a white wine that's trending again among wine critics, somms and up-and-coming American wine makers. We love it for its diversity of styles and ability to be both light and rich in texture.
The wine has a long history in France, however places like Long Island, whose cool climate mimics France’s Loire Valley, are throwing their efforts behind the grape. In California, there is renewed interest in the old-vine sites that managed to escape the Chenin purge of decades past, when vintners ripped up the vines to replant with Sauvignon Blanc instead.
France’s Loire Valley is the grape’s ancestral home, and there it is capable of various styles, from famous dessert wines to complex, dry wines with bright acidity and minerality. Here are some of the towns and regions in the Loire Valley that grow this grape: Anjou (often sweet), Montlouis and Vouvray (can be dry or sweet) and Savennieres (typically dry, not sweet). If you want to make sure that a French Chenin Blanc is dry, look for the words Sec on the label.
Chenin Blanc also appears in France as a delicious sparkling wine, usually labeled as Cremant de Loire, which tends to be a great value for French sparkling wine. It’s also the grape in the sparkling Cremant de Limoux, from the Languedoc in the South of France.
The best examples have flavors of apples and honey. They can be earthy and some people even say that Loire Chenin Blancs smell like a sweater in the rain – in a good way, of course. Its great acidity accounts for its spectrum of styles, where fermentation can be stopped to make it sweet, or allowed to continue into crisp dry wines. The wines tend to have terrific texture, and it is one of the few white wines that age well.
What food pairs with Chenin Blanc you may ask? Loads! Seafood, sushi, and Mediterranean fare are great places to start.
The limestone and flinty soil of Vouvray is famous for producing perhaps the world's finest Chenin Blanc. Located in France's Chateau-rich Loire Valley, this wine was harvested and then aged in 400-liter French oak barrels for around 8 months. The resulting dry white wine shows lovely notes of white flowers with a nice richness on the palate. A pretty pick for those ready to branch out into the dazzling array of amazing French whites. Buy Now!
While we agree that the label might not be that exciting, the history of Chateau de Breze is. These legendary wines were served all over the royal courts of Europe as far back as the 1400's. To this day, Chateau de Breze is lauded as one of the best makers of Chenin Blanc, and you can still visit their magical chateau in the Loire Valley of France today. As far as what's in the bottle, critics are raving about the fresh fruitiness, elegant minerality, and balanced acidity. The nose smells of white flowers and the palate is tantalizingly sharp, showing crisp apples and a long finish. This is definitely an amazing Loire white for the price! Buy Now!