Your Guide to Drinking Chenin Blanc (& Why It’s Awesome)

Your Guide to Drinking Chenin BlancOn the weekend I attended a Vertical Chenin Blanc tasting at John Kosovich Wines here in the Swan Valley and it really got me thinking about this white wine grape variety. As winemaker, Arch Kosovich, said – it was probably one of the only/first vertical tastings of Chenin Blanc in Australia. I really enjoyed the tasting, so much so, that I simply knew I had to write-up a post purely dedicated to this variety.

The vertical tasting I went to included 9 vintages of Chenin Blanc. The youngest was a 2015 (we also tried the 2016 at the cellar door afterwards) and the oldest a lip-smacking 2005 (which was the very first Chenin made by Arch). It was amazing to experience how the wine ages and it’s safe to say I am a big fan of the aged Chenin Blanc’s.

So grab a glass, and let’s get to know this grape variety a little bit better:

What type of wine is Chenin Blanc?

Chenin Blanc is a white wine grape originally from France. It can be made into a still or sparkling wines alongside being dry, off-dry or even made into dessert wines. It’s naturally high acidity makes it a very versatile grape, much like the versatile Chardonnay.

You’ll also find Chenin Blanc blended with other grape varieties where it will add acidity to the blend.

It’s synonymous with the Loire Valley in France (where you’ll see it labelled as ‘Vouvray‘) and is also widely produced in South Africa where it can also be called ‘Steen‘.

1969 Vouuvray

What is Chenin Blanc like?

As mentioned above, Chenin can be produced in a number of styles from sweet to dry. However, the most common characteristics include:

  • Lemon & lime
  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Nectarine
  • Honey
  • Camomile
  • Quince
  • Floral
  • Minerality

Chenin Blanc Food Pairings

What was really cool at the John Kosovich tasting was that Arch had asked the lovely folk over at The Cheese Barrel to create platters to specifically match the 3 brackets of Chenin we were trying.

Chenin Blanc Food Matches - John Kosovich

The younger vintages (2013-2015) were matched with:

  • Kytren Chevre (fresh goats cheese)
  • Snow peas
  • Cherry Tomatos
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries

The middle bracket (2010-2012) was matched with:

  • Marcel Comte (a raw milk cheese from the French Alps – which was the winemakers favourite match!)
  • Dried grapes/raisins
  • Apricots

The aged bracket (2005-2007) was matched with:

  • Thomas How Aged Red Leicester (an English aged cheddar style)
  • Pretzels
  • Nuts

John Kosovich Chenin Blanc Vertical Tasting

The platters matched the wines wonderfully. Chenin Blanc is actually a very food friendly wine, as well as the above, and depending on the style you’re drinking, it also goes well with:

  • Spicy Asian and South American foods (especially the off-dry and sweeter styles)
  • Fish, Salads and Chicken
  • Oaked Chenin tends to match well with creamy dishes, think potato bake and creamy chicken pasta)

Chenin Blanc in the Swan Valley (Western Australia)

I have to agree with Arch, the Swan Valley excels at producing Chenin Blanc and these wines the region are producing deserve some attention. Some of my favourites include, John Kosovich, Pinelli Estate, Olive Farm Wines and Sittella – they all produce wonderful fruity styles, each with its own unique yum-ness.

The below pictures are of the Chenin Blanc vines at John Kosovich.

John Kosovich Chenin Blanc Vines - Swan Valley Chenin Blanc Vines - John Kosovich Vineyard, Swan Valley

Chenin Blanc Tasting Notes

Here are some notes from Chenin’s I have tasted recently:

DMZ 2016 Chenin Blanc

I picked this South African Chenin Blanc for last month’s #thetcwineclub box as I was uber intrigued to try it. It’s a 2016 vintage from the Stellenbosch region which is renowned for Chenin Blanc. What makes Demorgenzon (DMZ) so unique is that in the vineyard between the vines they actually have music speakers playing the likes of Bach, Beethoven and classical musical. Winemaker, Wendy Applebaum believes it helps gives the grapes unique characters. I had to taste the uniqueness for myself.. On the eye it’s a sunny golden colour. On the nose hints of sea salt, citrus and gooseberry come through. We enjoyed this wee bottle with BBQ chicken wings and slaw which really brought out the fruit flavours. Honeydew melon and peach dominated with a nice oomph of oak. I also noticed on The Wine Gallery tasting note that Chenin Blanc is one of the rare matches for avocado – I’ll have to try this next time!

Sitella Sparkling Chenin Blanc Magnum

Yes this isn’t your standard bottle size. This is in fact a magnum (1.5 litres) and yes it was tricky to hold up and take this photo (I’m a weakling). We picked up this magnum of Sittella Sparkling Chenin Blanc on our last trip out to the cellar door for $60. Unlike the standard 750ml bottle, the magnums are made in a Cremant style which basically means they’re less gassy. On the eye it’s a pale yellow shade with an intoxicating bouquet of orchard fruits, candied lemon and a hint of nuts. In the mouth it’s ultra smooth, fresh and easy drinking. It’s always a real crowd-pleaser this bubbles and being less gassy in the magnum means it’s easy to consume quite a bit in one sitting.

John Kosovich 2010 Bottle Aged Chenin Blanc

Have you tried an aged Chenin Blanc from the Swan Valley? If not you should! I picked up this 2010 Chenin at the John Kosovich cellar door for about $35 – I was immediately in love with the freshness and depth of flavour. On the eye it’s a vibrant creamy yellow with toasted fruit, herb and florals on the nose. It’s super flavoursome on the palate with as I mention a lovely freshness with citrus acidity balanced by creamy fruits. It’s definitely a foodie wine that goes well with strong cheese so we found it with it matching the Stilton cheese we were eating perfectly.

What’s your favourite Chenin Blanc? Leave a comment below!

Grab a glass of wine and let me know what you think...