The World’s Best Places for Growing Chenin Blanc

Friday, 1 February, 2019
VinePair, Tim McKirdy
Botrytized dessert wines, traditionally made sparklers, and crisp, complex whites: Name a style of wine, and you can bet somewhere, someone is making it with Chenin Blanc. The native French variety is arguably the world’s most versatile, rivaled only by Riesling (though the Germanic grape definitely doesn’t have the same pedigree when it comes to bubbles).

With early budding and late ripening, Chenin Blanc is susceptible to Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot, which enables it to produce world-class sweet wines. Its racy acidity is key for maintaining balance, and makes it especially suited to sparkling production.

Chenin Blanc’s flavor profiles are similarly diverse. Fruit notes range from quince, apples, and greengage (imagine an underripe, sour green plum), to tropical pineapple, banana, and passionfruit. Hay and honey are other common descriptors, as are flinty, smoky minerals.

The variety currently falls under the umbrella of somm favorite rather than supermarket staple. But social media initiatives like the international #DrinkCheninDay (June 15), a close association with organic and biodynamic winemaking movements (especially in its Loire Valley homeland), and the small but energetic new wave of California producers championing the variety, suggest that Chenin Blanc may be on the cusp of change.

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