The World of Chenin Blanc’s
What is Chenin Blanc ?
Chenin Blanc is a white wine grapes originating in the Loire Valley of France. Due to its natural acidity it could produce a wine range of styles of wine, including dry and off dry versions to dessert and Sparkling. In the past it was know for some fairly bland wines but over the last twenty years or so a renewed interest in the grape and regions that grow it have won new fans looking for alternatives to the more popular white wine varieties.
Chenin Blanc in France
Within the Loire Valley Chenin Blanc is grown mainly in the Mid section of the Valley .
While most Chenin blanc is produced as a varietal wine, up to 20% of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are permitted in wines with the basic Anjou, Saumur, and Touraine wines.
1) Savennières produce predominately dry wines
2) The wines of Vouvray, Anjou, Samur, Coteaux de l’Aubance, Jasnières and Montlouis have a wide range of sweetness levels, from dry to semi-sweet to sweet.
3) The wines of the Coteaux du Layon, Bonnezeaux, and Quarts de Chaume are produced as sweet dessert wines.
By the 1980’s, Chenin Blanc began to be replaced with Sauignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc as these wines received a better price in the marketplace.
Soils and Climate
Most of the soils of the region are gravel and clay and rain flows into the Loire River or its branchs. The Loire River is Frances longest extending from the central France to the Atlantic Ocean. The LoireValley has many micro climates based on its location, the Middle section of the Loire a a Continental Climate which means a climate characterized by hot summers, cold winters, and little rainfall, typical of the interior regions of a continent.
Chenin Blanc is also grown around the village of Limoux in the Languedoc region where its is used in the production of Blanquette de Limoux, Blanquette méthode ancestrale, Crémant de Limoux and Limoux.
Chenin Blanc in South Africa
The grape can be found in most of wine producing regions of the world but the largest plantings of the grape outside the Loire Valley is in South Africa where it is the most widely grape covering 48,000 acres where it is also known as Steen
Chenin Blanc in The United States
In the United States it has had a mixed history, while planted widely especially in the hot Central Valley where it was mainly used as a blending grape in those bulk generic wines usually found in your usual Jug or Boxed wines. Over the past teen years or so the Clarksburg AVA region in the Sacramento Delta.
The Clarksburg AVA (American Viticultural Area) is spread across portions of three County’s: Sacramento, Yolo and Solano covering 60,000 acres where the soils are dominated by clay and loam. It cooler tempratures are a benefit from its proximity to San Francisco Bay.
I have seen examples of Chenin Blanc grown in the Napa Valley, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. (Noted Producer)
Unlike the grapes experience in California, the grape growers and wine makers consistently produce wonderful and flavorful versions mainly in the Dry and Off Dry Versions. I have not come across any examples of dessert or sparkling versions but if I do I will add there details to this page.
Chenin Blanc is grown in at least 10 other states and sorry to report I have not had any but I will continue to try and find and report back.
Chenin Blanc Elsewhere
Australia: Mainly used as a blending grape to make easy drinking white wines usually blended with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. I have seen a few producers but again over the past ten years the plantings have declined in favor of more commercial like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio.
New Zealand: While very little of it grown in New Zealand, one producer stands out James Millton Chenin Blanc is a stand out. Currently not available in the US but if you are visiting New Zealand make a trip to visit the winery.
Argentina: Also limited in production compared to other well known varietals I have tasted a few including one from Alamos which is a very easy drinking style and food friendly.