The Wine Guy
This wine I want to mention today has been grown in the Loire Valley of France for over 1300 years and more recently, in the last 200 years or so, has found another home in one of the truly great Southern Hemisphere regions, South Africa. Its high acidity has made it a go-to for not only still, table wine production, but also for dessert and sparkling wines as well. It’s a variety that you might not have seen too often in your favorite wine store and even less on many restaurant or wine bar menus, but the next time you are looking for something, ask about Chenin Blanc. There’s actually a lot to this little-known wine variety.
About this time of year in the Loire Valley, where many of France’s most beautiful chateaux are located, the days are warm and breezy, and the evenings are cool and dry. Just the kind of weather for a lighter, refreshing glass of local white wine.
In the Touraine appellation or, ”district” of the Loire Valley, the Chainier family has been making wine for generations and one of their favorites is Clos du Gaimont. The 2019 Clos du Gaimont Vouvray, ($19.99), a Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, is really nice. Floral notes, with scents of roses and woodland spice mingle with a honey, nutty finish. Have this one with some fresh fruit and cheese on the patio and you won’t want to get up! It’s also a great pairing with duck confit or braised cornish hen.
Moving up a notch, for those times when you’d like a little sparkle in your glass, but don’t want to spend a ton, look for Marquis de la Tour Brut, NV, ($13.99), from Remy Pannier, the largest wine maker in the Loire Valley. It’s got a great ”sparkle” to it, as well as a light, melon fruit mouthfeel-perfect with a plate of braised scallops on an early Friday evening after a crazy week.
It’s likely that if you ask your local wine store what they have in Chenin Blanc, you’ll be directed to the South Africa section; their wines present very differently. A good example is Bellingham Citrus Grove Chenin Blanc 2019, ($15.99). Located in South Africa’s beautiful Franshoek (Fran-shook) Valley where wine has been made since the late 1600’s, this Chenin Blanc is the Standard for the South African version-vibrant gold with bright green glimmers packed with punchy citrus aromas of orange, tangerine, and a tropical twist of honey melon and pineapple. On the palate is a fresh surge of key lime and Clementine flavors brushed with minerality on the zesty, mouth watering finish. Vive la difference! You could have this with Ginger/Soy/Cayenne-rubbed, grilled Pork loin and summer vegetables.
Located in South Africa’s Western Cape region, a stone’s throw from Cape town itself, Graham Beck Game Reserve Chenin Blanc 2019, ($16.99), is grown in one of four properties owned by Beck, who started making wine from his first re-claimed property in 1983. This wine is also very different from its French forebears-with delightful aromas of sweet juicy melon, pear drop and fragrant grapefruit. On the palate expect rich rewarding flavors of ripe tropical fruit and luscious citrus. Aromatic, fruity and well rounded – an elegant wine with a soft silky texture and vibrant, fresh finish. A really fantastic pairing for white pasta with clam sauce or shrimp scampi, to name just a few.
So, the next time you’re in the mood for something new and delicious, ask your wine retailer or the staff at your favorite restaurant what they have in Chenin Blanc- you won’t be disappointed, and I guarantee you that your first glass definitely won’t be your last.
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