Chenin Blanc’s high-acid qualities have made it a popular choice to plant in warmer than usual wine growing regions; its versatility also lends itself to dry, sweet, or sparkling wines depending on acid and sugar levels. Though it tends not to develop the complexity in very warm areas that it does in the Loire Valley, its thick-skin does enable it to thrive. The world-class wines of Vouvray and Savennières in northern France and the biodynamic growing techniques of Nicolas Joly have certainly contributed to both the grape’s and region’s stature in the industry. In the United States, however, Chenin Blanc has received a less-than-stellar reputation because it has historically been a component in many insipid jug wines.
I decided to explore this somewhat little-known variety and sample two Texas versions, because I have a hunch that Chenin Blanc is the kind of grape that might be able to put Texas on the map. Plus, when it is hot outside (as in the 100’s) there is nothing more refreshing than a glass of a crisp Chenin Blanc to transport you to the Loire Valley.
So I brought two bottles to enjoy with friends of ours. Unbeknownst to me they were serving a wonderful grilled and roasted whole chicken, roasted heirloom tomatoes with basil, a sauté of sweet fresh corn, and for dessert homemade blueberry and peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. The food was sensational and the wines went well.
2007 Llano Estacado Winery Chenin Blanc ($5.99)
Light straw color, citrus and apple on the nose, slightly sweet but good acidity to back it up, pear and apple, great sipper, refreshing…give me more
2008 Fall Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc ($6.99)
Golden color almost reminiscent of Sauternes, honey and candied apple on the nose, slightly viscous and less acidic, fuller bodied, sweet and mmmm-delicious with dessert too
Footnote: By no stretch of the imagination am I contending that the climate and soil in Texas are analogous to those of the Loire Valley; clearly there are differences. Nor am I saying that Texas Chenin Blancs are at the level of sophistication of their French counterparts. Those produced here tend to be on the sweeter side of the spectrum.
What I am suggesting, however, is that Chenin Blanc – a grape that produces glorious wines in France – does have the capacity to thrive in Texas; wineries should continue to exploit this grape because it results in quality wines at a very affordable price (note: prices above are retails I paid and may vary).
The French have a concept called terroir – the unique attributes of soil, climate and topography in a geographic area that contribute to the overall quality of the wine. And obviously there is a long list of human variables too that factor into the success of a bottling. But quality starts in the vineyard and developing a vineyard plan and choosing the right grapes to grow in a given micro-climate are critical success factors for any producer, particularly in Texas where the climate can be particularly challenging.