Choosing Chenin Blanc for some variety

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"If you could only pick one grape to drink the rest of your life, what would you choose?" 

Not a fair question, but it was a thought inspired by a game I overheard on the radio when I was daydreaming. I assumed I knew the answer to that … but the more I thought about it, the more I was not sure. In the end, I cheated and decided it would have to be one for white and one for red, but even so I was stuck.

I have to admit I am a cosmopolitan drinker (not the cocktails!). I like variety and believe that there is no "one best style" in most cases. There are simply too many issues to consider. 

So it finally dawned on me that the answer (at least for the white) had to be … Chenin Blanc.

It was an odd choice. In truth, I drink very little of it, but when I do I am often blown away. It makes everything from great sparkling wine, wines that are INCREDIBLY dry, through delicious, almost dry but rich to full on luscious and sweet wines. One grape. So many wines.

What does the grape "Chenin Blanc" evoke for you? 

For many, unfortunately, it is a fairly simple, often dull, white wine usually from South Africa.

It certainly should not have to be that way. Chenin Blanc was (and might still be) the most planted variety there, so it was grown more for volume than quality, but there are great South African versions – I'm fond of the wines of Ken Forrester, A A Badenhorst and De Trafford.

However, for Chenin Blanc lovers, the variety and complexity of the wines of the Loire Valley (it isn't all about Sauvignon Blanc thank goodness!) have to be ranked amongst the world's very best. This blog is not the place for in-depth looks at Loire wines – for that I point you in the direction of the indefatigable Jim Budd and his Jim's Loire blog.

So, when I saw an offer for some Chenin Blanc with a little age (though not yet nearly enough) on a special price, I jumped at the chance.
I bid/bought a case of bottles of Villebois Chenin Blanc 2007 from the Naked Wines Marketplace (in its first iteration). I have had a slightly mixed experience with the wines from this producer (who sells wines mainly thanks, it seems, to Naked Wines) but thought it worth a punt. According to their site, they focus almost entirely on Sauvignon Blanc but I'm rapidly getting bored with this grape (if I'm honest), so I am not sure what the story is to this wine, although the label implies it comes from their main vineyards.

This particular wine reminds me of baked green apples and hay on the nose. It smells bright yellow. It is a big, round wine in the mouth, showing the ripeness of the grapes, but maybe also a hint of some botrytis in there too. It has the sharpness of the filling of a bramble & apple pie, and also finishes with crispness and notes of honeyed, cinnamon spice. 

I paid £45.96 for 6 bottles, including delivery – making this wine £7.66 a bottle. A proper steal. 

However, it is now no longer available, but you might want to keep an eye on the site as it seems to have been quite popular, so you never know when they might find something from 2008 ;)

So, what would your one (white) grape be?
  • Paul

    Mmmm. I really adore proper dry Alsatian Muscat and, in the happy event that I find myself marooned on a desert island with a container of the same wine to do me til the bitter end, I think I would plump for this one.We used to sell a beautiful one but we have discontinued it as the demand just wasn’t there. A sad tale!

  • Robert McIntosh

    Sad indeed Paul. However, I get a sense that the door is opening *slightly* for more variety in the wine world with the advent of online sales and peer recommendation … keep at it!

  • basswulf

    If I could only pick one grape… I’d not be able to make very much wine at all! ;-)If I had to pick one variety, I think I might pick albariño for my white. I don’t drink it very often but it brings back memories of some excellent holidays in north-west Spain.

  • Toby @adnamsharleston

    I’d have to go with Riesling, variety is the spice of life and I think that Riesling offers a lot. Like Paul if I was marooned on a dessert island with a container I don’t think I’d be too unhappy!

  • Tom Parnell

    Nice post. Chenin Blanc is a good choice: It wouldn’t have occurred to me straight away, but your rationale is convincing. I might well copy you. The other contender is Riesling, which is a bit of a shapeshifter, too.(Also, it took me the whole of this post to recover from the revelation in the *preceding* one that you hate cheese… GASP.)