The perfect autumn white
November 8th, 2012
10:45 AM 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.

Whenever autumn hits - leaves start falling, the light takes on that crepuscular cast earlier and earlier in the afternoon - I always start opening more Chenin Blanc. It’s an underrated grape, largely forgotten by casual wine buyers amid seas of Chardonnay, but its apple-inflected fruit and earthy notes seem perfect to me for the foods of autumn. In other words, it’s a perfect wine for mushroom risotto, roasted butternut or acorn squash, pork chops with apples, turkey, even (though the stuff is set to jump the shark any day now) kale.

Chenin originates in France’s Loire Valley, where it’s the grape of the great wines of Vouvray and Savennières. It also has made a home for itself in South Africa, and there’s a small coterie of California wineries that specializes in it. It can be crisp and vivid or full-bodied and lush depending on where and how it’s grown, but in general it always manages to provide an appealing balance between fruity and savory flavors.

Here are five good examples to check out, now that November is upon us.

2011 Cape Indaba Chenin Blanc ($10)
A touch of pepperiness lifts the juicy flavors of this lighter-bodied, appealing Chenin from South Africa.

2011 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier ($14)
Winemaker Michael Beaulac blends in about 20 percent Viognier to give this lush, melony California white a touch of peach-nectar richness.

2011 L’Ecole 41 Chenin Blanc ($15)
Impressively aromatic, this wine from Washington state’s Columbia Valley appellation is a lovely American rendition of the classic Vouvray style of Chenin.

2010 Marc Brédif Vouvray ($20)
People tend to think of Vouvray as sweet, but this pale gold wine (like many Vouvrays, in fact) is floral and crisp, not sweet, with a creamy texture.

2011 Domaine du Closel La Jalousie Savennières ($23)
Chalky and green-appley, this ageworthy white comes from one of the top producers in the Loire’s Savennières region.

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© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Wine


soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Doobies instead

    Does anyone know a good non-alcoholic wine?

    November 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  2. Conrad Shull

    Sparkling Muscatel, Idaho's finest. Would you like to smell the cap?

    November 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  3. newsh

    great, wine comments. bring on the snooty. I worked at a french restaurant, and it was true when I said my moderate knowledge of the industry was about 95% greater than the average clientele. I used to tell them what to taste, and they would taste it. The power of suggestion is strong.

    November 12, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  4. happy horndog

    Don't promote alcoholism. There's no reason to drink wine, ever.

    November 11, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Pleiva

      Keep your ignoramus musings to yourself. If you don't like it why you posting douche?

      November 12, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • Bonnie

      Maybe you should have a glass and relax a little ... sheesh ...

      November 12, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Cheetahe

      If your taste buds are dead, you do not know what you are missing.

      November 12, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Newtonslaw

      Oh yeah, that Jesus fella was quite a drunk?

      November 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Conrad Shull

      Don't promote snarkyness. There's no reason to post on the internet, ever.

      November 12, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  5. toriogt

    Thunderbird is the word. .44 twice is the price.

    November 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  6. mre2

    Relax, it's just grape juice.

    November 9, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  7. kpasta

    Completely forgot about Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc from Healdsburg, CA. Hello- you call yourself one who is on top of the wine industry? One of the longest running Chenins from the US- best ever. I hope the wines posted were not getting a kick back... If you want to master Thanksgiving, Dry Creek Chenin is it. Google it!

    November 8, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Pleiva

      East coast bias. For that matter Sauvignon Blanc. Any good wine from the Sonoma, Alexander, Russian River Valley, or Napa Valley can best these selections. Dude's a shill.

      November 12, 2012 at 1:11 am |
  8. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Always make sure to sniff the cork. It's the only way to know a fine wine.

    November 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • kpasta

      Cork sniffing? Really? Who taught you that myth? If we were out in public and you did that, I would have to remove myself from the table. Whether or not the wine is corked can only really be confirmed by taste, Oh, and just because you don't like it does not mean it is a bad wine.

      November 8, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
      • Robert

        What you wrote was so mean, yet so true. I had a good laugh, even though I did feel guilty for laughing as long as I did. Perhaps Mr. McHammerpants becomes excited anytime wine in not poured from a box and topped off with ice cubes.

        November 10, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Jerv

      To this day I still get a kick out of folks getting all rowdy about cork sniffing and cork huffing. LOL!

      November 9, 2012 at 7:20 am |
      • Ixg

        Hilarious how seriously they took that comment. Esp when a post by Jdizzle McHammerpants, amazing name to post under! was obv sarcastic. Maybe they only recently stopped putting their Cab in the fridge.

        I stick the cork in my mouth when they present it, give it a good taste and make a discerning, 'ooh yes, that is excellent' just to see the response.

        November 11, 2012 at 10:02 am |
        • Jerv

          LOL! Too funny!

          November 12, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      If the wine is EXTREMELY bad, you can smell it on the cork.

      Of course, if it were that bad, you'd be able to smell it as the wine steward poured it into the glasses also.....

      November 9, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Doobies instead

      J: People sniffer the cork to see if the wine is "corked". When the cork spoils due to fungus it has a particular off smell.

      November 12, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  9. Yoda

    Ummm....Strong is the trivia force with these two.

    November 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      True dat!

      November 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  10. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Is that like Ketracel White?

    November 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Captain Picard

      That would be earl grey.

      November 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        I commend you. Either for knowing what it was or looking it up. Either one works for me.

        November 8, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
        • Jerv

          I knew what it was. I'm a dork.

          November 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          Apparently we both are. Cheers!

          November 8, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
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