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Chenin Blanc - sugar and spice and all things nice

Fri 23 Oct 2009 12:41

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With the massive selection of wine on offer, it can be hard to know what type to pick. But if you’re a fan of both dry and sweet wines, then Chenin Blanc can be a good choice, according to expert Tom Cannavan.

Chenin's home is the Loire Valley in France. The Loire is one of France's most important wine rivers, where Chenin Blanc is the white grape behind many famous wines in the central stretch of the river, like Vouvray, Anjou and Saumur.

To the east the Loire is also famous for Sauvignon Blanc, around Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume, and to the west, for Muscadet.

Chenin is also a very important grape in South Africa, and their most planted variety. In the past, a lot of South African Chenin (also known as 'Steen') was pretty watery, cheap stuff, with the fruit on the vines cropped at excessively high levels. But today's producers are making more concentrated wines and there are some fantastic examples from the Cape.

Chenin Blanc also makes terrific sweet wines in both countries, and dry or sweet, it is a grape naturally fruity and high in acidity that keeps well for a few years in the cellar.

Here are Tom’s top Chenin Blanc picks:

1. Boschendal Chenin Blanc 2009, South Africa, priced at £6.24 from Majestic (or buy any two South African wines and save 20 per cent, working out at £4.99)
Boschedal in Franschhoek is one of the longest established wine estates in the world, with a French heritage that goes back to 1685. This is typical, good quality Chenin with a more exotic profile than examples from France, and a sense of honeyed richness.

With exotic flavours of mangoes, honey and nuts, this delicious wine complements creamy fish dishes. It also goes well with nuts or can be drunk as an aperitif.

2. Springfontein Terroir Selection Chenin Blanc 2008, South Africa, priced at £9.99 from Inverarity One to One (based in Glasgow and Biggar; www.inverarity121.com)

From the cool, coastal region of Walker Bay, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, this is a vibrant wine that shows typical Cape Chenin flavours that are tropical, but fermentation and ageing in French oak barrels adds toasty, rich, cedary notes.

This wine, which tastes of pineapples, lychees and oatmeal, goes well with hicken salad, cold meats, creamy risotto.

3. Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Vouvray 2007, France, priced at £6.96 from Sainsbury's.
From the chalky hills of Vouvray in the Loire Valley, this just off-dry style of wine has fresh acidity, which makes it very easy to drink. These wines also cellar remarkably well for a year or two.

With fruity flavours of  honey, pears and apples, this wine goes really well with dishes such as chicken korma or tikka masala – or equally as well with fresh fruit as dessert!

For more great information, visit The Hour's wine page

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