The fifth annual international Drink Chenin Day takes place on June 15, 2018, and everyone is invited. A social media initiative combined with in-person events around the world, #DrinkChenin Day celebrates the Chenin Blanc grape, beloved for its ability to make charming, nuanced white wines. Those who are not already drinking Chenin Blanc have every reason to dive into this world-class grape variety for the first time, and Chenin aficionados have one more excuse to pop open a bottle on Friday, June 15.
Created by winemakers Kate Norris and Thomas Monroe, founders of Portland, Oregon’s Division Winemaking Company and Southeast Wine Collective, #DrinkChenin Day celebrates the quality and potential for a grape once relegated to lesser vineyards for bulk production and used for table wine in its home region of the Loire Valley. Though it has garnered quite a bit of attention as a darling of sommeliers in recent years, the Chenin Blanc grape is still underappreciated by the average wine consumer, prompting Norris and Monroe, who make two Chenin Blanc wines, to create #DrinkChenin Day.
Wine lovers are encouraged to enjoy a favorite Chenin Blanc from around the world and participate on social media using the hashtag #DrinkChenin, and wine shops and restaurants around the world will host events in celebration of the grape, all of which are included on the event’s website. Still need convincing? There are countless reasons to fall in love with Chenin Blanc on #DrinkChenin Day, but these seven will seal the deal.
Chenin makes a huge range of wines
Just like Riesling, not all Chenin Blancs are created alike. The array of cuvées created by this grape variety range from bone dry to intensely sweet, light to full, fruity to earthy, and even full-on sparkling. While the type of wine produced can vary based on region, some areas, like the Loire Valley’s Vouvray, span all styles. Because the late ripening Chenin Blanc has thin skins susceptible to botrytis, it is well-suited to producing lusciously sweet dessert wines in areas like Quarts de Chaume, but it is much more common to find dry still or sparkling Chenin Blanc on the average wine store shelf.
Regions around the world love Chenin Blanc
The Loire Valley is the home of Chenin Blanc, where the grape thrives in the central regions of Touraine and Anjou-Saumur. Though it’s tough to match top wines from areas like Vouvray, Savennières, Montlouis-sur-Loire, and Coteaux du Layon, other top winemaking regions have also embraced this grape variety in order to make their own unique styles of this wine. While there aren’t too many other Old World countries growing Chenin Blanc, Spain’s Conca de Barberà region in Catalunya makes some interesting, natural-leaning examples. In the New World, South Africa considers Chenin Blanc, historically called Steen, its signature white grape variety, and old bush vines can be found in regions like Swartland. Much of California’s Chenin Blanc plantings were used for bulk wine in hot regions, but recently, some small producers have begun to make high-quality, small-batch Chenin cuvées. Norris and Monroe are leading the charge for Chenin Blanc in Oregon, but more producers could see the potential for the grape in the region’s cool climate.
It creates some of the most complex wines in the world
While some Chenin Blancs can be confused for Chardonnay wines from Chablis, the grape has many signature aromas and flavors that set it apart from all other varieties. Even entry-level bottles can have remarkable complexity. Underneath primary fruit aromas of yellow apple, citrus, and even apple cider, many Chenin Blanc wines have layers of honey, orange oil, cheese rind, almonds, sea salt, mushroom, and even wet wool. Most Old World examples have a distinct earthy, minerally character, as do the best Chenin Blancs from South Africa and the U.S., and even that long list barely scratches the surface of potential aromas and flavors. While these characteristics may seem odd – yes, wet wool is a good thing – they make Chenin Blanc one of the most special and delicious white grapes around.
Food loves Chenin Blanc
While Chenin Blanc is quite the chameleon, it is almost always defined by high acidity. That doesn’t mean that Chenin Blanc is necessarily sharp, but it does mean that the grape pairs exceptionally well with food. The bright acidity can match tangy sauces and cut through rich or fatty dishes without overwhelming more delicate textures and flavors. Its range of styles also make it that much more versatile with various food dishes, making it possible to construct an entire pairing menu solely with Chenin wines. Try pairing sparkling Chenin Blancs with raw oysters; dry, earthy ones with roasted chicken and mushrooms; demi-sec Chenin with strong cheese; and dessert Chenin Blanc with crème brûlée. The possibilities are endless.
It can age for a long time
That acidity, complexity of flavor, and sometimes-present sweetness can make Chenin Blanc an extremely age-worthy wine, preserved by these important structural elements. While most Chenin Blancs on the market are meant to be consumed within a few years of release, some can age for decades.
It offers excellent bang for your buck
Though some bottles of Chenin Blanc can be pricey, there are plenty of thought-provoking, thirst-quenching, just-plain-delicious bottles in the $15 to $25 range. Even the expensive wines, like those of Richard Leroy, offer value for their $100 price tag, as they are comparable to top Burgundy cuvées.
In South Africa, Chenin Blanc is the most planted wine grape and, in recent years, a great deal of effort has been put into researching how to make South African Chenin compete with the best in the world. Let’s discover our gem.
Chenin Blanc by Beaumont Family Wines 2018
One of our favourite Chenin Blanc from South Africa made by Beaumont. It is a Family affair, embracing the past, present and future with a love for farming and wine.
This wine is classic South African Chenin Blanc! It was made from 100% Bot River fruit, capturing the full flavour and potential that their terroir has to offer. It is a delicious example of cooler climate Chenin Blanc fermented in concrete and stainless steel tanks. Dry, fresh and delicious!
Chenin Blanc Old Vine Wild Ferment Stellenbosch by Pearce Predhomme 2018
Today’s opportunity brings us to picturesque Stellenbosch, a unique warm microclimatic region just east of Cape Town, South Africa. This bottle is a quintessential case of a laser-focused, sublimely mineral Chenin Blanc at its dry, thirst-quenching best.
Exibiting fresh aromas of under-ripe stone fruit & tangerine, with firm minerality & restraint . This is a texture-driven wine, with the intensity & weight and an almost grippy finish. The acid is perfectly balanced with the weight, giving the impression of heft without the additives.
A true representation of Cape Town area Chenin Blanc.
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