Chenin Blanc is a very versatile grape variety that can produce wines at a range of sweetness levels and sparkling wine. Equally, the quality level can also range significantly. There are two key countries for Chenin Blanc, France, specifically the Loire Valley and South Africa.
Chenin Blanc’s vines are very vigorous, hence the wide range in quality. When yields are kept low Chenin Blanc can make some of the worlds most complex wines with a huge depth of flavour. When the vines overproduce, as is often the case, the resulting wines are flabby and neutral generally with unbalanced acidity.
Chenin Blanc can make exceptional sweet wines either from late harvest grapes or by Noble Rot (Botrytis cinerea). When this occurs the wines develop flavours of marmalade and honey. Chenin Blanc makes fantastic sweet wines because it has very high levels of acidity which cuts through the sugar.
Chenin Blanc is also a very important variety in Crémant de Loire.
France- the Loire Valley
The soil type in the Loire Valley is very important for the style of Chenin Blanc produced. Sandy soils create light wines that mature early, heavier clay soils produce more full-bodied wines.
In Vouvray, Touraine Chenin Blanc is the most planted variety. The wines can be still or sparkling and dry or sweet. The wines can have a distinctive wet wool aroma.
Coteaux du Layon in Anjou-Saumur is an appellation that is focused on sweet wine. There are three sub-regions; Bonnezeaux, Quarts de Chaume, and Coteaux du Layon Chaume.
Here the grape was previously better known as Steen. Chenin blanc has a long history in South Africa. It was first bought over to South Africa but the Dutch East India Company in 1652. A lot of bulk wine was produced from Chenin Blanc in the early 21st century however, stricter water restrictions have meant high-quantity low priced wine is less sustainable. The wines are mainly dry with stone and tropical fruit flavours.