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Chenin Blanc: A Break from the Norm!

Christine Mitchell, Manager of Majestic Bearsden, tells us why Chenin Blanc is the grape to go for this season!

It was a holiday through the Loire Valley and a cheeky ‘work’ trip to South Africa that did it. I was hooked. No, it wasn’t just the picture perfect villages around the river Loire and the majestic mountains of the Cape. It was Chenin Blanc. Why? As a grape variety, it has several guises and is probably the world’s most versatile grape variety. I love the fact that it can be so very different and can surprise me every time!

Chenin Blanc in its native region is often called Pineau / Pineau de la Loire or Steen in South Africa. It grows well in the cool climatic area of the Loire due to its natural high acidity, especially in the less ripe vintages.South Africa now has more than three times as much Chenin planted as France because of its resistance to disease and wind. Its productivity is also excellent with higher yields.

It is capable of producing some of the finest, longest living sweet wines, off-dry wines with refreshing  acidity, floral aromas and  lovely peach and subtle honey flavours like the La Grille Chenin Blanc or Robertson Chenin Blanc. There are wines that are steely and dry with hints of apples and pears like the Jasnieres and medium sweet wines such as  Vouvray Demi Sec Domaine Bourillon- Dorleans (although Vouvray can also be dry and sweet). Continuing on with its’ versatility, we have the Bellingham ‘The Bernard Series’ Old Vine Chenin Blanc which has a huge amount of complexity from 12 months’ fermentation in French oak and concentration of flavour from old vines!

Lastly, many of our customers may have visited the town of Saumur in the Loire, well known for it’s Saumur Mousseux, a well priced sparkling wine made from- yes you guessed it- Chenin Blanc! We have the Bouvet Ladubay NV which has fresh citrussy flavours and a creamy mousse.

I urge you to take a break from the norm and try some Chenin Blancs from our range. There are quite a few to choose from!

7 thoughts on “Chenin Blanc: A Break from the Norm!

  1. Chenin Blanc has a terrible reputation in the US where it was considered as “jug wine”. The reputation was largely generated by using grapes from excessive yields – not surprising that the wine lacked character!

    There was, however, one Napa producer, Chappellet, who produced a spectacular Old Vine Chenin Blanc. They had some Chenin planted in the early 60s on their original property in the hills east of Napa and it produced a wonderful wine so they made contracts with other Napa growers for their old vine Chenin also.

    Unfortunately, they had to uproot the original vineyard some years ago and 2004 was the last vintage available. I still have great memories of it though!

    1. For me Chenin vies with Riesling as the noblest of the ‘noble’ varieties. The range of styles produced is phenomenal, and no other grape, save perhaps Riesling, is so interesting.

      It’s reputation has been hugely damaged in the UK by the Supermarkets and their vast quantities of £3.99 South African Chenin Blanc, which tends to be pretty dire.

      Look for the boutique wineries of South Africa: De Morgenzen, Cape Chamonix, TMV, Tierhoek to name a few, or better still seek out the Vouvrays of Domaine Huet, widely viewed as the region’s leading domaine. The wines are sublime, and can evolve over decades.

  2. Chenin Blanc is ridiculously underrated by most observers. There are not many grapes, from any region of the world, that can producer such a broad and varied range of wine styles; from the many dry examples to some of the world’s very finest medium sweet and sweet wines, not to mention high quality sparkling wines, too. Any doubts about the greatness of this most wonderful grape would be laid to rest instantly when a glass of Quarts de Chaume is served with fine pâté or a fruit based dessert. Alternatively, a fine aged Savennières as an alternative to the very finest white Burgundies. An incredibly flexible variety which when in the right hands can compete at the very highest levels of all.

    It is such a pity that Majestic do not carry such wines as Savennières, Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux, in the Loire Valley selection, instead concentrating on the excessive numbers of Sauvignon Blanc wines. Still, as a dedicated customer of Majestic Wines, I live in hope…

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