Chenin Blanc is our anytime, anywhere white wine because it is at once versatile and complex yet easy going – both in terms of budgets and what’s on the table. In fact, Chenin Blanc wines from the Loire Valley come in every imaginable form from taught and lightweight Anjou Blanc to sparkling Crémant de Loire bottlings and sweet after-dinner showstoppers like Quarts de Chaume.

Also called Pineau de la Loire, Chenin Blanc may have been cultivated in the Loire Valley may for over 1,000 years, though its documented history dates to the 15th century. Chenin Blanc is a variety that buds early and ripens late, presenting an occasional challenge in the northern Loire Valley. However, the same cool temperatures that threaten the grape also allow it to retain its signature acidity. In fact, this quality is what allows Vouvray and Savennieres to cellar beautifully for decades. This white grape is cultivated across the Loire Valley, but is best known from the appellations of Anjou, Vouvray, and Savennieres. Chenin Blanc makes up just 15% of plantings in the Loire Valley, but these vineyards account for over 90% of the Chenin Blanc grown in France.

The grape variety yields a dazzling array of wines, from highly concentrated and ageable dessert wines to light and refreshing vins de soif, or thirst quenchers. Chenin Blanc is also susceptible to Botrytis, or Noble Rot, which occurs in the Loire Valley in certain vintages and growing areas. This unique mold concentrates the sugars within each grape berry, yielding highly sweet and concentrated juice after harvest. Balanced with a refreshing acidity, these grapes boast all the hallmarks of truly great dessert wines. The vineyards of Quarts de Chaume, Bonnezeaux, Coteaux du Layon and Vouvray, for example, can produce long-lived sweet wines. Savennières and the dry wines of Vouvray – two other Chenin-Blanc dominant appellations in the heart of the Loire – possess all the aromatics and texture of their dessert wine cousins, and likewise share the ability to age for decades.

Because Chenin Blanc is naturally high in acidity, all of its wines are incredibly versatile on the table. Classic pairings range from semi-firm cheeses to delicate fish preparations, but are truly unlimited today, with many Chenin Blancs pairing beautifully with Asian and Caribbean cuisines. Any day of the week, we’ll bet on Chenin Blanc to steal the show!

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