Of the white wines from France, we probably think of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio first. It’s not necessarily that they are the best or most interesting (although they can be) but rather that they’re the most common and therefore the most widely known.
As you’ve probably learned by now, the wine world is vast and diverse, and there is always something delicious waiting to be found. Today, that wine is Chenin Blanc.
Now, Chenin Blanc isn’t some mysterious white that no one has ever seen- it is fairly popular but it has always been a bit of a dark horse. This sweetly acidic white wine comes from the Loire Valley in France and is also a big thing in South Africa, and it’s actually been on the scene for centuries. It is said to have originated in the 9th century in the Anjou wine region in the Loire Valley and then spread to Touraine in the 15th century. In the mid-1600s, the grape was transported to South Africa where it has flourished, making the country the largest producer in the world.
Chenin Blanc is harvested later in the year which provides this honey-like sweetness on top of the high acidity that is almost addictive. There is a fairly wide range of flavor profiles that you can get, which is unique for a white wine, and they’re all simply perfect. From dry to sparkling, you’ll get things like pears and quince or persimmon to ginger and toasted almonds with mandarin oranges.
In South Africa, some of the later harvest Chenin Blanc grapes are blended to make these rich, oaky whites that are similar to a Chardonnay but sweeter. The French have taken it and gone sparkly, creating this slightly dry but luxuriously acidic bubbler that tastes like a summer day all year long.
If you’re looking to expand your tastes and explore the wonders of the Chenin Blanc, we have a few to recommend. It’s worth it to try some from France and some from South Africa to truly appreciate and revel in the differences between both regions. Here are some names to get you started:
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