Bad Chenin Blanc is truly dreadful. Great Chenin Blanc is truly sublime, and capable of lasting for years, even decades.
Imagine a grape with the fruit of Chardonnay and freshness of Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling. That's what Chenin Blanc is capable of, but has only achieved sporadically. With cleaned-up winemaking in France, and renewed interest in other countries, finally it is beginning to shine
The under-flavored, over-sulphured, searingly acidic wines that have put many people off Chenin Blanc are thankfully disappearing. In their place are some terrific wines - dry, medium, sweet and even sparkling.
Thankfully, the tart yet flabby wines that made Chenin Blanc from the Loire such a minefield are slowly disappearing. The top wines of Vouvray, Savennières, Anjou and Coteaux du Layon have the classic honey, green apple and lemon flavors underpinned by steely acidity. Dry, medium or sweet, they age magnificently.
South Africa also has extensive Chenin plantings. Cheap versions are easy drinking, while more ambitious wines pack in flavors of nuts, pears and apples, occasionally with toasty oak in support. Western Australian examples can be very good, as can those from New Zealand's North Island - shame they're not more fashionable.
Chenin Blanc is South Africa's most widely planted grape, occupying nearly a quarter of the vineyard area.
Does sparkling Chenin Blanc exist only in the Loire?
No. It is used in the sparkling wines of Limoux, in southern France.