Chenin Blanc is comparable to Riesling in that it is an incredibly food-friendly wine. Similar to Riesling, it comes in bone dry, off-dry, sparkling, and sweet styles. The most popular style of Chenin Blanc comes from the Vouvray region of France.
With a mouth-zingy acidity and lots of mineral flavours, when made right you have the perfect palate-cleansing wine. Typical flavours of Chenin Blanc are melon, pear, peach, apricot, citrus, green apple, buttered popcorn and marzipan.
The dry and off-dry wines are a great wine to pair with curried dishes, such as a curried chicken salad. The flavours of this wine take away the curry’s heat, bringing out the flavours of the dish. This wine will also calm the fury of a spicy Kung Pao chicken dish or a spicy ceviche.
The acidity in this wine will pair up nicely with tomato sauces and cut through dense cream sauces. The acidity is also perfect for rich dishes, such as roasted duck in a fruit sauce, or any protein-based dish in a white sauce. The buttery notes, along with its citrus and pear flavours make Chenin Blanc and obvious choice for a warm slab of cornbread, a breaded cutlet of Pork Schnitzel, or a bowl of cauliflower soup.
Chenin Blanc & Ham Pairing
I love an off-dry Chenin Blanc with a Honey Glazed Ham. The slight sweetness of the wine complements the salty-sweet nature of the ham. Meanwhile, the acidity tears through protein, making each bite taste fresh.
California and South Africa are both producing some outstanding Chenin Blanc. The Dutch were fascinated with this grape and had it planted throughout South Africa during the age of exploration. However, if you are a purist, you’ll have to look towards the Vouvray region of the Loire Valley in France, where the Chenin Blanc is the dominant grape in the white wines they produce.
Deciphering the Label
Vouvray in France uses different terms to describe their Chenin Blanc.
Methode Traditionelle – Is a sparkling white wine.
Sec – This refers to a Lean and Dry Chenin Blanc, which are lean, minerally, tart, and sometimes a little bit smokey.
Tendre – is an off-dry Chenin Blanc and perhaps the most popular style of this grape. Expect a lush white wine with aromas of fresh pairs and flowers.
Moelleux – is a sweet dessert wine style and should generally be treated as you would a Sauternes when pairing with food. Great pairs would be peach cobbler, apricot tart, apple desserts, or foie gras.
Vouvray doesn’t have a monopoly on the Chenin Blanc, and there are other regions of France worth exploring
Anjou and Côteaux du Layon
Anjou is known for exceptional sparkling Chenin Blanc, with the most popular being Anjou Mousseaux and Crémant de la Loire
Côteaux du Layon, meanwhile, focuses on amazingly sweet Chenin Blanc made with noble rot. These wines are world-famous, with Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux being the most expensive.
The Montlouis region produces wines in a very similar style to Vouvray and is a great equal alternative if you are seeking a quality Chenin Blanc.
A Chenin Blanc produced in a style very unlike Vouvray as it uses oxidative winemaking. This process deepens the colour and adds a nutty ripe apple flavour to the wine. While not a popular style, it has quite the cult following amongst fans as the area produces consistent and quality wines year after year.