The underrated beauty of chenin blanc

28 Feb, 2019

This versatile white variety can be made in myriad ways, promising plenty of interest for wine lovers willing to branch out.

Chenin blanc is one of those chameleon varieties that can be grown and made in several ways, meaning the resulting wines provide an array of options to drinkers. The trouble is that in Australia, chenin blanc isn’t on the radar for most people. 

In its home of the Loire Valley in France, however, chenin blanc is a hero, and this high-acid grape turns up in all manner of wines – from juicy Cremant de Loire sparklings to food-friendly Vouvray whites. Further to being fizzy or still, chenin can also be dry, off-dry or sweet (the French are famous for their luscious dessert versions of the wine).

With the Australian wine industry largely founded on classic French styles, why is chenin blanc one that hasn’t made a mark? Well, it’s finicky for one. A bit of a homebody, chenin is particular about its environments, preferring mild climates. Parts of our warm country would be less than ideal.

That said on our soils, chenin does have a presence. Some of the best examples come from the west coast, where you’ll find mostly dry, fruity styles. One of the top producers of chenin blanc in Australia right now is South African import Remi Guise (France may be the birthplace of the grape, but South Africa has the largest plantings) of tripe.Iscariot and his styles highlight the subregional differences of Margaret River. Chenin blanc also has a history in South Australia and there’s still some there, mostly in McLaren Vale. Across the rest of the country, it’s around in tiny amounts.

Chenin blanc can produce aromatic, refreshing, versatile wines that are great with food. Its diversity – from crisp and mineral-driven to textural and fruit-forward, plus those bubbly and botrytis styles – keeps things interesting too. The next time you go to pick up a bottle of, say, chardonnay, why not consider chenin blanc? You might be pleasantly surprised.