Chenin Blanc is one of the Most Multifaceted Grape Varieties
It is almost impossible to give Chenin Blanc a description that highlights the typical features. That is because this grape variety is considered to be one of the most multifaceted ones worldwide. Chenin Blanc delivers everything that makes the connoisseur’s heart beat faster: extremely dry up to sweet white wine, sparkling wine and dessert wine, even spirits such as brandy or sherry. A Chenin Blanc can therefore cater for many different tastes. Despite everything, wines made from Chenin Blanc have some similarities. The colour ranges from a clear yellow up to a golden shimmer. A honey aroma is apparent in the bouquet as well as on the tongue. A concentrated residual sweetness as well as pronounced acidity are also typical for a Chenin Blanc. This is why this grape variety is often used for sparkling or dessert wines.
Chenin Blanc Ripens Late yet Delivers Good Yields
Chenin Blanc buds early; at the same time, this grape variety needs some time for optimal ripening which is why it is especially successful in warmer regions. Many winemakers actually utilise this slow ripening process and produce excellent dessert wines using the so-called noble rot. Chenin Blanc can provide extremely high yields; for example, wineries produce up to 175 hectolitres per hectare in the Californian Central Valley. Yet the white wines from such yields are often quite watery which is why winemakers focusing on quality stay under 45 hectolitres per hectare.
Chenin Blanc with a Glorious History in South Africa
Chenin Blanc and South Africa just belong together. The white grape variety is the most widely cultivated vine in the country, with a considerable gap. It is one of the first grapes both Jan van Riebeck and Simon van der Stel had imported and planted in South Africa. At that time, it was known under the name Steen. This name Steen held itself amongst some wineries yet most use the term Chenin Blanc. In the middle of the 20th century, new cellar technologies and development methods entered the wine world. Chenin Blanc is very responsive to new procedures in wine production; not always to its advantage though. Through quick and cold fermentation some white wines had lost their taste characteristics and only featured a crisp freshness. Recently, winemakers have turned away from such table wines and increasingly concentrate on real premium wines from Chenin Blanc. This goes even so far that winemakers from the Loire valley speak acknowledging about the South African Chenin Blanc - a rare honour for wine from overseas.