Chenin Blanc, one of the world's most versatile grapes, is a white wine treasure that is beloved by wine enthusiasts but not yet fully in the mainstream. Summer is the perfect time to explore this delicious and very affordable wonder of the wine world.
Chenin blanc has been cultivated in the Loire Valley in France since the 9th century. Though the French have since mastered Chenin Blanc, today it is widely planted in the New World: the United States, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
In France, Chenin Blanc is made in a variety of wine styles from bone dry to medium-sweet and from still to sparkling. But outside of France, the Chenin Blanc grape is usually made into a dry white that is perfect for summer quaffing and food pairing. These wines are typically made to be consumed young. They are wonderful as an aperitif or with salads, fish, chicken and white meats, especially pork.
Old vine Chenin Blanc (many over 70 years old) is prolific in the Swartland of South Africa and cherished for its ability to produce whites of sublime depth and richness. The region is a hotbed of like-minded natural winemakers that produce exceptional New World Chenin Blanc: French ex-pat Vincent Carême works with a less-is-more mentality and a boundless energy that is frankly unparalleled; And winemaker Adi Badenhorst’s Secateurs Chenin Blanc is another bottle worth savoring this summer with its luscious, honeyed fruit.
Meanwhile, on Long Island, maverick Chenin master Kareem Massoud of Paumanok winery on the North Fork produces world-class examples of Chenin Blanc. Massoud’s new release “Minimalist” is a perfect summer white with its vibrant fruit and modest alcohol (only 11%). Or, if you’re in a California state of mind, seek out the Chenin Blanc wines from Leo Steen—our favorite being his concrete egg fermented bottling from the limestone soils of the Jurassic Vineyard in Santa Barbara.
Chenin Blanc is a grape that takes on so many different forms as it is grown in different climates and soils. No matter where it's grown, its balance of crispness and honeyed fruit is sure not to disappoint.