Australian Chenin Blanc wine regional and flavour profile
WHITE | LIGHT BODY
Taste and aromas
Tropical fruit, tart green apple, passionfruit, melon, grapefruit and quince flavours with an undercurrent of honey.
Tart acidity and oily mouthfeel. Light to medium bodied and can range from very dry to very sweet depending on the time of harvest and climate grown in.
Drink now or later
When developed with noble rot, the sweeter versions of Chenin Blanc can be left to age for a number of years, developing as richer, rounder and more honeyed wines.
- Chenin Blanc (known also as Pineau de la Loire among other names), is a white wine grape variety from the Loire valley of France.
- It has a naturally high acidity means it can be used to make everything from sparkling wines, dry wines, off-dry wines, to well-balanced dessert wines, although it can produce very bland, neutral wines if the vines are not well controlled.
- In South Africa, Chenin Blanc is known as Steen, and is the most widely planted variety. This grape has taken to the climate and soil of South Africa very well, causing it to be adopted by some of the best makers in the world, whose skill and technological expertise are bringing the very best out of this great grape, particularly in Stellenbosch.
Chenin Blanc grown in cool climates such as Tasmania and areas within New South Wales and Victoria are usually austere with chalky acidity. Warm climate regions such as the Margaret River and Swan Valley produce Chenin Blanc with rich tropical fruit flavours, with hints of pineapple and passionfruit, and are also generally sweeter.
In New Zealand, Chenin Blanc is planted primarily on the North Island, where some examples of New Zealand Chenin Blanc have drawn favourable comparisons to the sweet dessert styles Chenin from the Loire Valley.
While Chenin Blanc is planted across the globe from China to New Zealand, Canada, and Argentina, it is considered a “major” planting in only a few locations. While France is the viticultural home of Chenin Blanc, by the turn of the 21st century there was twice as much Chenin Blanc planted in South Africa as there was in France. The grape’s versatility and ability to reflect terrior causes it to lead a double life. In the Loire Valley of France, it is prized as a premium quality wine grape able to produce world class wines, while in many New World wine regions it used as a “workhorse variety”, contributing acidity to bulk white blends and showing more neutral flavours rather than terroir. Throughout all its manifestations, Chenin Blanc’s characteristic acidity is found almost universally in all wine regions.
With its home in the Loire Valley in France, the white wines of the Anjou AOC are perhaps the best expression of Chenin as a dry wine, with flavours of quince and apples. In nearby Vouvray AOC they aim for an off-dry style, developing honey and floral characteristics with age. In the best vintages the grapes can be left on the vines to develop noble rot, producing an intense, viscous dessert wine that may improve considerably with age.
As there are many styles of wine made from this variety, it is difficult to apply a rule of thumb.
Sparkling Chenin is a fraction of the price of Champagne, but serves equally well for pairing with food, with its high acidity able to cut through fatty dishes. It also works well with oysters and desserts.
Because of dry Chenin Blanc’s citrus notes, it can be paired with any meal you might squeeze a lemon over, such as fish, or other citrus based dishes. Off dry Chenin Blanc matches well with slightly spicy dishes due to their small sugar content. Pairing them with Thai, Malaysian or Indian dishes is not uncommon. Finally, Sweet botrytised styles can be served as aperitifs, or as a dessert wine to pair with rich, pungent cheeses or creamy desserts.