17 Jul 2024
Wine of the Month: Chenin Blanc with focus on South Africa

Wine of the Month: Chenin Blanc with focus on South Africa

Chenin Blanc (Pineau de la Loire) is one of those grape varietals you’ve probably heard of but somehow skip because you’re just not sure whether you’re buying a rattlesnake in the bottle or a generous wine with great personality in the glass…

Chenin Blanc from Loire, France, is the main varietal in wines such as drier styles of Vouvray, Savennieres, sweet Coteaux du Layon wines and sparkling Saumur. World class Chenins outside of France are produced by a number of top wineries in South Africa, a couple in New Zealand and to a lesser extent California.

The last 10 years has seen South African Chenin win over the international wine elite with serious dry wines with more of a ripe and fruity profile than the wines from France. The fresh high acidity of these Chenin’s provides a lean structure which carries the generous honeyed fruity notes and minerality all the way through to a lasting finish.

These wines could be enjoyed now but certainly benefits from bottle aging for a period of 3 to 5 years. Note that Chenin from Loire will require longer aging calm down the high acidity. Apple, quince and greengage are flavours more associated with Chenin from Loire than France, while warmer climate Chenin’s could have more tropical fruit and grapefruit flavours.

I advise you to work your way through a variety of good Chenin’s to test this and see if there are any surprises.

The foremost producers of notable South African Chenin have the following wine making practices in common:

  • Low yields which mean that the grapes are exposed to the best possible ripening conditions
  • Careful hand selection of ripened grapes over a number of days
  • Fruit from older bush vines – vines are often more than 40 years old and produce fruit which offers complex and concentrated flavours
  • Traditional winemaking methods which allow the uniqueness of the vineyard and produce to take centre stage.
  • Well balanced wines with well integrated oak if used.

The following wines are my picks for great Chenin’s available in Sweden:

AA Badenhorst and Family, Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2013. Western Cape. Coastal Region. Swartland.
Product Code: 70933
Price: 111kr
Importer: Vinovativa AB
Description: Pale golden yellow colour with generous stone fruit, grapefruit and a hint of sweet spice on the nose. This is an impressive wine from the get go. On the palate the wine is slightly more reserved, the refreshing acidity is well integrated with the fruity peach, apricot, apple grapefruit, lemon peel and wild honey flavours. This is an expressive wine with fine minerality and a silky creamy texture. Bottle ageing will enhance this wine which winemaker Adi Badenhorst declares his best vintage to date. The 2012 vintage can be ordered through Systembolaget while the 2013 can be ordered through Systembolaget Private Import. It’s really easy to do. They even do home deliveries. Secateurs Chenin Blanc pairs well with lighter fish dishes, mouthwatering goat cheese souffles and triple cream cheeses. Bring on the herbs, spice and mild heat Chenin can handle it.

Reyneke, Biodynamic Chenin Blanc 2012. Western Cape. Coastal Region.
Product Code: 73636
Price: 109kr
Importer: Primewine
Description: Enduring quality! Classic aromas of green apple, pear, honey. Pair it with lightly grilled seafood and lemon and browned butter dressing.

Bellingham, The Old Orchards Chenin. 2013. Western Cape, Coastal Region.
Product Code: 2051
Price: 99kr
Importer: Fondberg
Description: Chenin goes with everything! A well made wine with great personality. Drink now.

Miss Vee’s Wine Wisdom:

  • Etiquette tip 1: A question to avoid, “What kind of grapes is this Chenin made of?”.
  • Etiquette tip 2: Never say, “I hate high acid wines” while drinking Chenin. In fact avoid saying that you hate high acid wines altogether.
  • Honest truth: If you can drink Riesling you can drink Chenin.
  • Value for money tip: Honey, apricot, fig and acacia balanced with refreshing acidity are characteristic of bottle aged sweet Chenin from Loire. It is an exceedingly good alternative to Sauternes for a classy addition to your dessert table. Think of delicious fruit tarts and cakes – roasted pears and blue cheese -bakewell tarts or frangipane. Boom!


Featured Image: vreimunde/Flickr (file)

Vanessa Le Grange

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1 Comment

  • Uran Barry 30 Jul 2014

    I always struggle to find a good chenin so thank you for the tips and ‘wisdom’

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