This is a great, very versatile grape of the Loire has found a home under the South Africa sun, where it accounts for a fifth of all the vines planted. Chenin Blanc wines have led the way in white wine production in South Africa, especially in the last decade or so, which has seen a marked improvement in the quality of South African wines in general. Due, in the main to modern wine production methods, winemakers raising their game and producing wine from grapes grown on older, well established bush vines.
In the Loire, Chenin Blanc is used for the production of a wide variety of wines, from crisp, dry whites, sparkling wines such as Crémant de Loire and sweet, honeyed dessert wines.
In South Africa, production is concentrated in the costal Stellenbosch region and in areas such as Franschhoek. Early to bud and late to ripen whilst retaining a natural high acidity, its special characterists make Chenin Blanc the ideal grape for growing in sunny climes. Being resistant to a number of diseases is an added advantage and further explains its popularity with South African wine producers.
While a Loire wine will have tasting notes of minerality, greengage and honey, South African Chenin Blancs are far more tropical in their flavours, offering up guava, banana and pineapple. When it comes to pairing Chenin Blanc wines with food, then the wine’s versatility allows for a wide choice with crisper, lighter styles a good match for salads and vegetable dishes, fish and chicken or maybe a goat’s cheese soufflé or a light creamy sauce. If the wine has spent some time in oak, then pair with richer dishes such as chicken liver pâté with chutney or a fruit based meat dish such as a tagine.