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Chenin Blanc

Sheh-nin blanc

Chenin Blanc is a highly acidic white wine varietal, originating from the Loire Valley of France. The grape has deep roots in this region, with the earliest documentation of Chenin Blanc wines dating way back to the 9th century. When first produced, Chenin Blanc grapes were used to produce sweet white wines, either sparkling or still, to serve as a dessert wine.

But Chenin Blanc’s second home is an interesting one: South Africa. An old Dutch navigator named Jan van Riebeeck imported the grape from France to his South African backyard. This varietal ended up thriving in South African soil, spreading rapidly through vineyards in the continent. Here, years of advancements in winemaking have made South Africa the largest producer of Chenin Blanc throughout the entire globe. 

The gnarled old bush vines that produce Chenin Blanc are planted in some of the purest granite soils on the foothills of its originating regions. The vines are mainly grown under dry land conditions, meaning they are not irrigated, and therefore the roots plunge meters into the granite subsoil in search of moisture. The altitude of the vineyards also means that these vines are well exposed and cooled by winds that come off the ocean during the long, hot summer. 

Before picking, the ripeness of Chenin Blanc grapes is monitored continuously by the oenologist, who works closely with different growers who set the harvest dates according to each region. After picking, direct pressing, traditional vinification, then cold settling, the winemakers then move to fermentation with constant temperature control.

Fast Facts:

Origin: The Loire Valley of France in the 9th century

Notable Regions: Anjou wine region of Loire, France; South Africa

Grape: Chenin blanc varietal

Flavors: apple, pineapple, pear, spices, peach and honeydew melons

Sweetness: dry or sweet

Body: dry

Tannins: low

Acidity: medium to high

ABV: 12-14.5%

glass of chenin blanc with chenin blanc grapes

How to Serve Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc Serving Temperature

~45ºF (7ºC) 

Wine Glass for Chenin Blanc

Universal

How Long to Decant Chenin Blanc

5-15 mins 

How Long to Age Chenin Blanc 

3 years max

Flavor Profile

Notable Flavors:  Apple, Pineapple, Pear, Spices, White Peach, and Honeydew Melon

The vibrancy of Chenin Blanc’s white peach and apple aromas on the nose are just a peek at the wine’s vibrant, sophisticated elegance. An ample mid-palate of melon and pineapple add a weighty feel when drinking, while the bright, steely acidity adds freshness. Every sip tapers off into a clean, crisp, mineral finish.

Certain wines produced in rockier climates will contain just a hint of smoke in it, which helps accentuate its key fruit flavors, as well as adds a savory dimension to it. As a whole, Chenin Blanc tends to be full-bodied, with almost earthy hints that complement its citrusy nose. 

Chenin Blanc has a range of flavors depending on the winemaking style. It can range from dry, off-dry, sweet or sparkling which will change the sweetness. 

For delicious Chenin Blanc from around the world, shop Martha Stewart White Wine.

South Africa 

50 percent of Chenin Blanc is produced in South Africa. Here, it is typically blended with Semillon, Viognier, and Marsanne that gives the wine a similar taste to oaked Chardonnay, but a tad sweeter. 

Loire Valley, France

Loire Valley is much cooler than South Africa so the grapes vary in ripeness. Less ripe grapes are highly acidic, whereas riper grapes are usually used in a more aromatic batch. Loire Valley’s end-of-season grapes are impacted by noble rot, which concentrates the grapes’ sugars and lends to rich flavors of orange marmalade, ginger, and saffron. 

chenin blanc grapes on the vine

Food Pairings for Chenin Blanc

Sweet and sour is your friend with Chenin Blanc. The acidity and sweetness pairs well with sour foods like pork chops with apples or jicama and guava flavors. It is a delightfully fruity wine that goes great with meats like roast chicken, grilled white fish, cold cut meats and other seafood. If you’re a fan of salads, Chenin Blanc is also an appropriately fresh pairing. 

Additionally, its fresh palate makes it a charming companion to desserts like homemade apple pie. But perhaps most surprising about Chenin Blanc is that it goes along with mildly spicy foods. The full body and light sweetness of this wine masks the heat from spicy foods just the right amount. We recommend trying this wine with grilled fish tacos and salsa. 

Meat Pairings

Veal

Trout

Chicken

Turkey

Pork Chop

Halibut

Smoked salmon

Cheese Pairings

Soft to semi-firm cow cheeses

Brie

Gruyere

Cream Cheese 

Cheddar Cheese 

Herb-crusted goat cheese

Vegetables

Squash

Jicama

Guava

Shallot

Chives

Savoy Cabbage

Yam

Carrot

Cauliflower

Mushrooms

Corn

Red Bell Pepper

Apple

Quince

Pear

Spices and Herbs

Cinnamon

Dill

Tarragon

Turmeric

Ginger

Fennel

Red Pepper Flakes

Cashew

Sesame 

Clove

Macadamia Nut 

Recommended Dishes

  1. Scallops with Chenin 
  2. Simply cooked fish dishes
  3. Fishcakes
  4. Cooked egg dishes like quiches, frittatas and omelets
  5. Onion tart
  6. Salt and Pepper Squid

Chenin Blanc Recap

If you’re looking for a white wine with mature mineral notes and a refreshing quality, look for a bottle of Chenin Blanc. The juice of these grapes retains most of its acidity throughout the winemaking process, making this a great table wine. Its versatility as a sparkling, still, or sweet dessert wine shows its adaptability and uniqueness between regions all around the world. Look no further than this complex wine, with plenty of character and depth in each bottle. 

Don’t forget to shop Martha Stewart White Wine for some of the best Chenin Blanc!

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