Each popular grape variety now has a day dedicated to it. April 17 marks International Malbec Day; May 21, that of Chardonnay; on August 18, that of Pinot Noir; on November 12, that of tempranillo … The list is so long that by force, I do not pay too much attention. Except perhaps for a grape variety, the Chenin Blanc, which the wine world will celebrate on June 9.
In its native Loire, the Chenin is as much a sparkling wine as a still wine; sometimes dry, sharp and mineral in Savennières and Saumur, sometimes sweet in Vouvray and in the Coteaux du Layon. Characterful wines with a high acidity content which gives incredible aging potential!
With this ability to maintain a good level of acidity, even at full maturity, the chenin has long conquered hotter shores than those of the Loire. South Africa is today the world’s number one producer of chenin blanc. There, where it was established in the 17th century, it also takes on different faces: sometimes sour and slightly vegetal when subjected to industrial yields, but most often complex and racy, in the hands of sincere and talented winemakers.
Here are five – three from South Africa, two from the Loire – to keep you on track, just in time for June 9. Health!
Ken Forrester, Chenin Blanc 2018, Reserve, Stellenbosch
South Africa 14%
2.1 g / L | ★★★ | $$
SAQ code: 11093126
Ken Forrester is a bit the godfather of the chenin blanc in South Africa and his wines, from the smallest to the most ambitious, are all references. Its Reserve is a bit like the Stellenbosch steen: dry, sharp, coated with a broad texture and so structured that it almost gives the impression of being tannic. The more daring can even serve it with grilled lamb chops …
Ken Forrester, Chenin blanc 2019, Small, Stellenbosch
South Africa 13.5%
3.4 g / L | ★★ 1/2 | $ 1/2
SAQ code: 10702997
As always, the Petit offers a lively and frank expression of the Chenin Blanc. The tangy attack on the palate is accompanied by lemon and lemon mint, almost peppery, enhanced with a slight sparkling. Simple, accessible and true to the character of the steen.
Mullineux, Chenin blanc 2019, Kloof Street, Old Vine, Swartland
South Africa 13.5%
1.2 g / L | ★★★★ | $$ 1/2
SAQ code: 12889409
This vintage from Andrea and Chris Mullineux is a perfect introduction to Swartland white wines. Fruit of a blend of three terroirs (shale, slate and granite) and from old vines managed without irrigation, the 2019 is distinguished by its layers of fruity, floral and mineral flavors, which a touch of bitterness draws into a finish complex. Lots of fun for the price. A word of advice: let it open for an hour in a carafe. Your patience will be rewarded.
Vincent Carême, Vouvray 2018, Spring
5.6 g / L | ★★★ 1/2 | $$
SAQ code: 13594899
The grapes that make up the trading cuvée of Tania and Vincent Carême come from vines at least 35 years old, cultivated on the clay, flint or limestone soils of the appellation. Spring 2018 offers flavors of juicy pear, applesauce and white flowers on the palate on a chalky background. Its ample texture is supported by a thread of acidity which makes it all the more refreshing. A straight and sincere wine, offered at a very affordable price.
C & P Breton, Vouvray 2018, Shoulder Thrown
6.8 g / L | ★★★ 1/2 | $$ 1/2
SAQ code: 12103411
A very fresh vouvray, rounded off with a slight residue of sugar (6.8 g / l) – like many “dry” vouvrays, moreover – which does not detract from its vitality or lightness. Roundness and acidity meet harmoniously, the flavors of ripe white fruit are punctuated with notes of chamomile and chervil. Perfect to accompany salads with good Quebec vegetables.