A grape that could use some (tough) love: Chenin Blanc
July 12th, 2011
01:00 PM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant - and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

I have enormous respect for Chenin Blanc, but this is one grape that definitely needs to spend some time in a military academy. Left to its own devices, after a few years Chenin vines sprawl out, get all broad and flabby, and start overproducing like the Octomom.

But with a little firm discipline (shoot- and cluster-thinning, which is vineyard-manager-speak for “drop and give me twenty, dogface!”) suddenly they're a source for crisp, complex—and underrated—white wines. Here are five that have been whipped into shape.

5 Chenin Blanc Bottles to Hunt Down

2011 Indaba Chenin Blanc ($10)
Indaba’s wines support a fellowship for needy South African students interested in wine-related careers. Like growing more Chenin Blanc, because the place does it so darn well, for instance.

2010 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc ($12)
This peachy wine comes from Clarksburg, in California’s Sacramento River delta. No oak here, just zippy stainless-steel-tank freshness.

2010 Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc ($13)
More peach notes—it’s sort of a Chenin signature—and a nice hint of spice, from one of South Africa’s top wineries. Plus, how can you not love a place that also makes a wine called “Faithful Hound”?

2010 Pine Ridge Vineyards Chenin Blanc-Viognier ($14)
The Pine Ridge folks add about 20% Viognier—another grape that tends towards sloth and dissolution unless you give it what-for—to this melony Chenin, giving it a nice floral note.

2009 Domaine Huet Le Haut Lieu Sec Vouvray ($30, more or less)
“Sec” means dry, important to know with Vouvray, since many of the Chenins from this French region can be sweet. “Domaine Huet” means “I make the best damn Chenin Blanc on the planet,” basically. It’s a splurge, but once you’ve fallen in love with this grape, it’s one you’ll want to make.

Previously - A grape that could use some love: Dolcetto

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soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. wine-o-rama

    anyone heard of blue plate Chenin Blanc? had it at a 4th of July party in CA and it was yummy- dry, fruity, well balanced, and a summer treat at like $10-$12

    July 13, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  2. Leslie

    Messina Hof Chenic Blanc – best ever, but you can only get it in TX =)

    July 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Leslie

      Chenin* sorry – got excited that there's an article about my favorite wine and I typed too fast

      July 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  3. Gilbert Grape

    Look like urine samples.

    July 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  4. Yummy

    Good wine pic - put that up on YummyWar!

    July 13, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  5. Wineman76

    Find Chenin Blanc at the best possible price here http://bit.ly/pnx1Rf

    July 13, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  6. Bob


    July 13, 2011 at 6:42 am |
    • Boy George

      While your mouth is open yawning, do something useful and insert my weinersnitzel, beotch.

      July 13, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  7. Ron

    Really appreciate your acknowledgment of Huet, but feel Savennieres has been left out of the picture. I would imagine it dwarfs the others suggested for benchmark expression.

    July 12, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  8. kjb

    Chick wine, so...forget it!

    July 12, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  9. k foster

    Suggest all you try crisp, fruity (not sweet) refreshing Walla Voila' from L'Ecole No. 41, a winery in Walla Walla Washington. Plenty of complexity, food friendly or just a "sipper." You can't go wrong. Readily available across the US, around $20.

    July 12, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  10. louis

    how does one pronounce chenin? (shen – yin)?

    July 12, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • kris with a k

      it's pronounced shen-in, with emphasis on the 1st syllable

      July 12, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  11. Porkasaurus Rex

    I'd like to see more Chenins in stores, but the sweet-ish, featureless wines of the past have turned most people off. So stores hesitate to carry them - even the good stores rarely stock more than 5 or 6, and those are hit or miss (mostly miss). And I just can't afford the $25+ French Chenins. It will take a gutsy (read suicidal) grower/winery to invest in Chenin Blanc - and that's a shame.

    July 12, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Carla

      Biltmore makes an excellent chenin blanc.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  12. Mel Blanc

    Ehhhhhhhhhhh,What's Up Doc?

    July 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  13. Goober Grape

    Cool! Grapes!

    July 12, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • I got dat gold!

      You can have grapes cuz I got all dat gold!

      July 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Goober Grape

      Gold Grapes? Cool!

      July 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
      • Jerv

        Haha! Totally cool username dude.

        July 12, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
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