Chenin Blanc White Wine Variety

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Chenin blanc is a highly revered white variety from the central regions of the Loire Valley where it is used to make sweet, semi-sweet and dry white wines and also sparkling wine. It is less highly regarded in Australia.

Jancis Robinson Chennin quote

Honey, mineral, bees wax, wet wool...

These are some of the descriptors used in the Wine Grape Varietal Table to describe this variety.

It is grown extensively in Western Australia where it has formed the basis of the popular Houghton's White Burgundy. Along with Semillon and Sauvignon blanc, and sometimes Chardonnay, Chenin blanc has been a component of the WA Classic Dry White style.

The famous Loire Valley wines of Vouvray are made from Chenin blanc. The variety is also used for making wines under the appellations of Montlois, Savennieres and Saumur, to name just a few.

De long's wine grape varietal table
Chenin blanc is over cropped and undervalued almost everywhere else in the world, but some attention is at last being paid to its potential to produce quality wine when given due respect. For many years the variety was the mainstay of the South African wine industry. This is largely due to the ability to produce large crops in warm conditions. The variety has its own organisation, the South African based Chenin Blanc Association

Most Australian plantings are in Western Australia, but Chenin is present in most Australian regions. It is probable that the WA propensity for using the variety is a result of importation of vines from South Africa in the 19th Century. Around Perth the variety has historically played a role similar to that it plays in South Africa, producing wines of no great character. The variety is reasonably popular in Margaret River where growers and winemakers have more of an eye for quality.

Elsewhere in Australia the variety plays a minor role in a number of regions, but it is fair to say the Australia has yet to produce a great Chenin blanc. The possible exception being a one-off late harvest wine produced by St Leonards in the late 1970s. I recently tried a dry Chenin from the same maker and found it excellent.

Producers of Chenin Blanc Wine in Australia

Most producers are in WA, for historical reasons. Chenin is most often used in Australia as a component of blends, the so called "Classic Dry Whites" of WA used to contain Chenin.

All Saints Estate Rutherglen |
This page recently updated to include new wineries listed in
James Halliday's Wine Companion 2014
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Chenin Blanc and Food

As there are many styles of wine made from this variety general recommendations are a little hard to make.

Sparkling Chenin or cremant is a fraction of the price of Champagne but it serves equally well for food pairing. Use it with oysters as an appetizer or right through the meal to fruit based desserts.

Dry Chenin blanc can be used wherever you would other light dry wines, anything that you might squeeze a lemon over you can serve with a dry Chenin.

Off dry Chenins come into their own with slightly spicy dishes such as coconut based curries from India, Thailand and Malaysia.

Sweet botrytised styles belong at the start or the finish of the meal. If you are serving a terrine or foie gras for starters, a sweet wine is great. Creamy deserts or soft cheeses also call for a sweet white wine and a dessert style chenin could fit the bill.

You can find more ideas in the book Daring Pairings

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