Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc

Pronounce it: shen-in blonk

Can be sensational

Chenin Blanc could easily be classified as one of the great 'noble' grapes. That's because all around the world, in different climates and soils, it can produce exceptional wine.

In France, in Joan of Arc country along the Loire river, it shows its diversity. The dry whites range from basic to very fine. It's important to read the label, especially with Vouvray, as styles vary from sec (dry) through demi-sec to moelleux (sweet).

The sweet Chenins can be outstanding: honeyed but with a tell-tale freshness. They include Quarts de Chaume and Coteaux du Layon and can be better value than the sweet wines of Bordeaux.

Look out also for sparkling Chenin, including Crémant de Loire. It's good value, often with a pleasing hint of ripe apple.

In South Africa, Chenin has for a long time been a base for making spirits and fortified wines. Recently quality has been improving fast, and Ken Forrester of Stellenbosch is a leading producer.

Main characteristics

Colour: white: varying from very pale to deep gold

Body: light to full bodied

Tastes: notes of baked apple and honey often with refreshing lemon acidity, in three styles - dry, medium sweet to sweet and sparkling

AKA: Steen (in South Africa)

Often blended with: Chardonnay, Semillon and Colombard, especially in mass-market blends from the New World

Keep or drink? Drink up the cheap and cheerful dry wines; keep the non-vintage sparklings for up to 2 years; cellar the top quality sweet wines

Price range: from £3.99-£8.99 for the mass market dry wines; up to £15 for good quality dry wines; from £10-£30 for sweet wines

Try it with

Roast pork with apples, cider vinegar & rosemary
Sparkling lemon & amaretti ice
Roast pork with lemon gremolata

Skills & know how

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