Chenin Blanc is a versatile grape that originated in the Loire Valley in France, and has become an important grape in South Africa, as well as other new world regions. It is versatile in the sense that its high acid, complexity of aromas and flavors, and ability to become deeply concentrated, lend itself to a variety of styles.

Chenin Blanc is made as a dry, still white, sparkling, dessert wine, plus demi-sec wines. It truly has something for everyone. With complex notes of beeswax, ginger, lemon verbena, chamomile, and jasmine, there is truly nothing like it. It’s a stand-alone stunner that can be found at a range of price points.

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Chenin Blanc Tasting Notes

At its heart, Chenin Blanc presents a refreshing acidity that makes it instantly recognizable. This lively tartness often translates into crisp flavors of green apple and quince, and depending on the wine’s level of ripeness and winemaking techniques, it might even echo ripe pear or stone fruits like peaches and apricots.

A hallmark of Chenin Blanc is its distinctive minerality that can sometimes veer towards a flinty, wet-stone character, especially in wines from the Loire Valley. This underlying mineral edge adds complexity and structure to the wine’s fruit-forward profile.

Another delightful aspect of Chenin Blanc is its ability to age. As it matures, Chenin Blanc evolves to display deep, rich flavors of honey, nuts, and a somewhat wax-like nuance. The wine becomes more rounded and complex, rewarding those who have the patience to cellar it. It’s also important to note that Chenin Blanc can be crafted in various styles, from bone-dry to lusciously sweet, and even sparkling.

RELATED: See Our Massive List of Wine Grape Varieties Around the World and Learn About Each One

Wine Growing Regions for Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc is most notably produced in France’s Loire Valley and throughout Swartland in South Africa, however it is now being produced all over the globe.

In 1936 Vouvray, in the Loire Valley, was created as an Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). The region is set along the right bank of the Loire River and has decidedly perfect soil anatomy for Chenin Blanc. Vineyards are usually planted on the plateau above the river bank in soils composed of gravel and clay on top of tuffeau. The climate is also special, in that the cooler regions are perfect for growing grapes for sparkling wine, while the more humid areas are conducive to the growth of noble rot for sweeter wines. 

South Africa has long been beating the drum for Chenin Blanc, focusing on the grape for still wines, as well as their dessert wines (called straw wines), that are made by raisining the grapes on straw. 

The region in South Africa that spearheaded the Chenin movement (sometimes called Steen there) was the Swartland, under producers such as Chris and Andrea Mullineux, Eben Sadie, David and Nadia Sadie, and Adi Badenhorst. 

California and Washington have had success with the grape as well, mostly using it in blends to add complexity or in dry single varietal bottlings. Lots of other new world wineries are picking up on the trend, with Chenin shining in New York State, Virginia, Oregon and beyond.

Surprisingly, Chenin has even found its way to Spain where it is mainly used as a blending grape in Pendedés and Priorat. The blend is called Somiatruites. Chenin Blanc is the primary grape in the blend, along with numerous other grapes including Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc and Xarel.lo. It is an interesting example of how Chenin Blanc can add balance and complexity to a wine.

Fun Fact: Chenin Blanc and its Relationship with South Africa

Chenin Blanc’s journey to South Africa is shrouded in a bit of mystery. It is believed that the grape was brought to the Cape by the Dutch in the 17th century, potentially under the name “Steen”. However, for a long time, no one made the connection that the widely planted “Steen” was, in fact, France’s Chenin Blanc.

The discovery of Chenin Blanc’s true identity in South Africa only happened in the mid-20th century, thanks to the dedicated efforts of ampelographer (a botanist who identifies and classifies grapevines) Professor C.J. Orffer. He realized that the grape known as Steen in South Africa was identical to the Chenin Blanc he saw in French vineyards.

Chenin Blanc Wines to Buy

Check out some of these beautiful Chenin Blanc Wines from all over the world:

  • Alheit Huilkrans Chenin Blanc, Citrusdal Mountain, South Africa
  • Astrolabe Wrekin Vineyard Chenin Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
  • Château du Hureau Foudre Saumur-Champigny, France
  • Thacher Shell Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc, Paso Robles Highlands District, California
  • Colinas do Douro Colheita Tardiva Chenin Blanc, Douro, Portugal
  • Raats Family Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • Cedergreen Cellars Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington
  • Chappellet Signature Chenin Blanc, Napa Valley, California
  • Paumanok Dry Chenin Blanc, North Fork of Long Island, New York
  • Alfredo Roca Fincas Chenin Blanc, Mendoza, Argentina

Pairing Chenin Blanc Wine with Food

A glass of Chenin Blanc can elevate a meal from mundane to magical. Its versatility makes it a standout with a range of global cuisines, complementing traditional dishes and inspiring novel culinary combinations.

From the classic French region of Loire Valley, dry Chenin Blanc is a sublime match for the region’s local goat cheese. It also works beautifully with shellfish and white fish, its bright acidity slicing through the richness while its subtle apple and pear notes complement the sweet, delicate flavors of the seafood. Try a Vouvray Sec, a dry Chenin Blanc, with oysters or a fish terrine.

In South Africa, Chenin Blanc wines often show riper, tropical fruit notes. These South African versions, with their fuller bodies and tropical fruit flavors, can stand up to spicier and more complex dishes, such as a Cape Malay curry or peri-peri chicken.

Sweet Chenin Blanc, like the luscious dessert wines from the Loire, makes a fantastic partner for a range of desserts, from fruity tarts to rich crème brûlée. However, they also shine in less conventional pairings. A Loire Valley Coteaux du Layon, for example, can serve as a surprisingly refreshing counterpoint to blue cheeses, the sweetness of the wine balancing the saltiness of the cheese while its acidity cuts through the creamy fat.

Sparkling Chenin Blanc, particularly from the Loire Valley’s Saumur and Vouvray regions, offers further pairing possibilities. With its bubbles and vibrant acidity, it works well as an aperitif, with light starters, or even with sushi, where it can complement the umami flavors and stand up to the wasabi’s heat.

For a unique fusion pairing, try Chenin Blanc with a Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich. The crisp acidity and fruity flavors of the wine work wonders with the sandwich’s mix of savory pork, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs.

The Best Wineries to Taste Chenin Blanc

From the rolling hills of the Loire Valley to the stunning landscapes of South Africa, the globe offers numerous destinations for Chenin Blanc tasting. Below, we’ve highlighted a couple of our favorites from the most renowned growing regions for the grape. Each winery offers a unique interpretation of this versatile grape, providing both stunning scenery and an in-depth education on Chenin Blanc’s varied expressions.

Domaine Huet – L’Échansonne

13 Rue de la Croix Buisée, 37210 Vouvray, France

+33 2 47 52 78 87

Domaine Huet stands as a beacon of excellence in Chenin Blanc production in the Loire Valley. Known for their meticulous vineyard practices and dedication to biodynamic farming, they produce some of the most highly regarded Vouvrays in the region, showcasing both dry and sweet styles. Visitors to the winery can expect guided tastings in the cellars, paired with panoramic views of the picturesque Loire countryside. The combination of top-notch wines, deep-rooted history, and a serene setting makes Domaine Huet an essential stop for those keen on exploring the Loire’s expression of Chenin Blanc.

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines

Dassenberg Rd, Franschhoek, 7690, South Africa

+27 21 492 2222

In South Africa, the Swartland region has emerged as a hotspot for Chenin Blanc, and Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines are at the forefront of this resurgence. Their Chenin Blanc wines, crafted with a focus on terroir expression, show the depth and complexity this grape can achieve in South Africa’s diverse soils. The winery, nestled amidst the rugged beauty of Swartland, offers an immersive experience for visitors, complete with vineyard tours and tastings. Mullineux & Leeu’s commitment to quality, paired with their breathtaking location.

Frequently Asked Questions about Chenin Blanc

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