Chenin Blanc Wines

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007 at 12:00 am

Chenin Blanc most probably came from the Pineau  d’Aunis in Anjou where there have been records of the grape’s existence in the 9th century. It was then migrated to the Loire valley and then extended to the Rhone. Rabelais was clearly keen on the white wines of the region of Anjou and he mentions the medicinal qualities of the grapes at the end of a certain chapter of his book.

This is one type of grape that may have been first grown in South Africa by Jan Van Riebeeck way back in 1655 because it may have come to the country of South Africa from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. It was during that time that the grape became to be known as Steen and it was only in 1965 that the term Steen was also recognized as being the same as Chenin Blanc.

Chenin blanc, or in some cases, Pineau de la Loire, is a form of white wine grape from the Loire valley of France. It is characterized to have a high acidity which means that it can be utilized to make almost any type of wine from sparkling wines to well-balanced dessert wines.

Although it has been known to produce very bland, neutral wines as well but only if the vine’s natural vigor is not taken care of. Outside the Loire, it is found in most of the New World wine regions and it is the most widely planted variety in South Africa. In that region of the world it is known as "Steen".

Chenin blanc is sometimes simply known as Chenin and it is quite a particularly versatile type of grape that is used to make brandy as well as dry, white, sparkling and dessert wines. It essentially offers the palate a moderately neutral taste for the expression of terroir, vintage variation and the winemaker’s treatment.

In the cooler areas where it grows, the juice of the grape is quite sweet but definitely high in acidity. It carries with it’s a full-bodied fruity varietal palate. However, in the inconsistent summers of northern France, the acidity of underripe grapes was often disguised with chaptalization with very unsatisfactory results whereas today the less ripe grapes are simply made into the well-liked wines such as Cremant de Loire.

The different white wines of Anjou are perhaps the best examples of Chenin as a dry wine with flavors of quince and apples. In the nearby Vouvray, they simply target an off-dry style which essentially include floral and honey characteristics in their wines as it ages. In the best vintages the grapes can be left on the vines in order to develop noble rot. This will consequently create a robust, viscous dessert wine which will significantly improve as it ages.

Chenin is one type of wine that has a lot of history in it because it has endured name changes as well as geographical changes in the past. However, it is still considered to be a an experience for the varietal palate as it can become full-bodied and fruity despite its acidity. Looking at its past, it truly is a wine that can stand the test of time.