Want to expand your wine horizons? Consider exploring South African Chenin Blanc! Whether you prefer a dry white or something more sweet, there’s a wide variety of styles on offer from this region. Let’s explore why they are so special.
Chenin Blanc Overview
Chenin Blanc is one of the four high acid white grapes (Pinot Grigio, Riesling, & Sauvignon Blanc are the other three). And it’s a grape that’s nearly as versatile as Chardonnay. It’s made into sparkling wines, dry wines, sweet wines, still wines, oaked or unoaked wines… you name it and it’s pretty much been tried.
What I love about Chenin Blanc is bracing acidity with the slightly oily body. Chenin blanc can coat your mouth in a way that the other three high acid wines can’t. While there is a linear quality to Chenin Blanc as it races to the back of your palate, it also spreads. In turn, this lengthens the taste and delightful experience of drinking the wine.
Even the simpler Chenin’s can be savored somewhat. It’s rare to have a Chenin that disappears as soon as you swallow.
Chenin can be found all over the world. Perhaps it reaches it’s height of fame in both Stellenbosch, South Africa and the Loire Valley (Savennières in particular), France. In the Loire the less ripe Chenin Blanc grapes are used as the base for incredible sparkling wines. The more ripe grapes are used for off-dry, or full-bodied dry wines. The flavors in the Loire are going to be more grassy, lean, and mineral compared to the riper, more exotic fruited wines found in South Africa.
South African Chenin Blanc
South Africa is the world’s largest producer of Chenin Blanc. Sometimes, it can be blended with other full bodied grapes like Viognier and Marsanne to create a rich white wine. But there are plenty of single varietal styles as well!
A major factor in the quality and character of South African Chenin Blanc is the combination of its mountainous terrain near the ocean and its diverse soils. This creates perfect conditions for growing grapes – with cooler temperatures at higher elevations, and warmer climates towards the coast. In addition, many vineyards are located on ancient granitic soil which gives the wines a minerality and complexity not found in other regions.
When it comes to winemaking, South African producers tend to be more experimental than many others; oaking some wines and even creating sparkling versions too. In general, Chenin Blanc from South Africa is acidic but has good body and an aroma of florals, honey, apricots and lemons – making it quite versatile with food pairings.
Craven South African Chenin Blanc
I recently tried the Craven Chenin Blanc, and if you can find it, it’s a great value for the price. It has bright acidity with notes of honeydew melon alongside zesty flavours such as green pepper – combined together these create an intriguing flavour profile that will keep you coming back for more! As an added bonus: it’s very affordable for those just starting their wine journey.
Some other Producers to Look at:
Some other affordable Chenin’s from South Africa are Badenhorst Family Wines the Secateurs label. Badenhorst Family Wines is a producer in South Africa making some wonderful wines from $15-$60 a bottle. Secateurs is their more affordable category. It’s also a great producer to look to as you grow in experimenting with higher and higher quality wines from South Africa.
If you are looking for premiere categories, look into Kanonkop, Tokara, and Delaire Graff Estate.
Chenin Blanc Food Pairing Ideas
Some food pairings to think about are:
Fish: Asian Halibut with Sesame Ginger Glaze and Roasted Broccolini with Rice. Salmon with Curry Beurre Blanc, or Grilled Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Crema
Meat: Roast Chicken with a Creamy Mushroom Sauce and Fingerling Potatoes. Peruvian Chicken Skewers with Basil Chimichurri Sauce or Chicken Satays with Peanut Sauce
Vegetarian : A medium-spicy stir fry with mushrooms, carrots, peas, corn, and broccoli. Apple and Squash Soup (skip the Pancetta).
So if you’re looking for new ways to add excitement to your dining table – look no further than South African Chenin Blancs! With a range of prices and styles available, each bottle is certain to give you something new to explore – cheers!
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