Chenin Blanc is arguably the most versatile of all wine grape varieties. Crisp, dry table wines, light sparkling wines, nectar-like dessert wines, and even brandy are all produced in various areas of the wine world, all of Chenin Blanc. While versatile, a general tendency to over-irrigate and overcrop reduce most Chenin Blanc to the forgettable. But careful viticultural practices easily overcome the varietal’s potential weaknesses and can result in excellent wine.
Chenin Blanc often gets labeled as a great food wine. When done right, it is characterized by a really good balance of acidity with just a hint of sweetness.
Prior to the 1970s, Chenin Blanc used to occupy more land under vine in California than Chardonnay. It was used to make the overly sweet jug wines that dominated the era — and as tastes changed, Chenin Blanc was replaced with other white varietals (make way for Chardonnay).
In France, Chenin Blanc, or Pineau de la Loire, is grown in the Loire Valley — more specifically, the regions of Vouvray, Savennieres, Anjou and Samur. Many would argue that almost all of the truly memorable Chenin Blancs are French, from Saumur and Savennières (dry), Anjou and Vouvray (off-dry), Coteaux du Layon and Quarts de Chaume (dessert), and Crémant de Loire (sparkling).
But South Africa produces some great Chenin Blancs as well. Nearly a third of grapes grown in South Africa are Chenin Blanc (where it is known as Steen).
Cederberg is one of the top South African producers of Chenin Blanc. Very light straw in color. A beautiful nose with exotic floral and passion fruit and citrus aromatics. The Cederberg is light to medium bodied with mouth-tingling crispness, acidity and viscosity. It is very fruit-driven with notes of white peaches, nectarine, pear and jicama — and some citrus, grass and mineral/flint components as well.
A great paring with fresh fish, spicy Asian or Indian dishes, sushi, salads and pasta dishes with fresh herbs and garlic.
Recommended and a great value at $12-14 a bottle.