07/31/08 – Chenin Blanc

By Jesse on July 29, 2008


I’ve been home in New York for a few days, and on Thursday evening found myself charged with the task of picking out a wine or two to serve at a dinner my family was hosting for the parents of my high school girlfriend. Naturally, this begs the question: what wine do you serve to the parents of your high school girlfriend? Something a bit tight and restrained, in acknowledgment of the period when they didn’t quite trust you and kept her on a short leash? Or something sweet and full-bodied, to represent their eventual embrace and celebration of the young love that you two shared? Or something from the 2003 vintage, to represent the last time you saw them? The answer, of course, is this: it completely depends on what you’re serving for dinner.

My brother the chef was apparently cooking up a hearty pasta entrée, so for the red I picked out a Montepulciano D’Abruzzo that was recommended to me as being light but robust. The white, though, left me torn between something crisp like a dry Riesling or something lush like an aged Sémillon. Instead, the guy recommended a Chenin Blanc — the 2007 Indaba, from South Africa, featuring a screwcap and a $9 price tag. And y’know what? It was actually pretty delicious. This made me wonder why we’ve never devoted an entire meeting to this versatile grape. This week, we shall.

Chenin Blanc is grown all over the world, but its most famous plantings are in France’s Loire Valley, particularly in the central regions, including the appellations of Vouvray, Anjou, and Touraine (here’s a sweet Loire map — most regions growing Chenin Blanc are grouped around the city of Tours in the middle). The wines made from Chenin Blanc range from dry to sweet, and even include some sparkling, so ask your wine pro for a good one.

In the US, Chenin Blanc was traditionally overplanted, which dilutes the flavors, and thus was mostly made into jug wines. Fortunately, a bunch of California producers are stepping it up and growing some delicious Chenin Blanc by treating the grape like they would any other prestige varietal. The Winos enjoyed a delicious Santa Barbara Chenin at the Wine Cask event, and there are apparently great things going on in the Clarksburg AVA (check out this site for more info about California Chenin Blanc). Other good Chenin Blanc is grown in Australia, New Zealand, and — surprise, surprise — South Africa.

We’ll be meeting at Emily’s new place in Manhattan Beach. The RSVP situation is as follows: new members have eight spots reserved for them at each and every meeting, with preference within those spots given to newbies who were denied admittance due to space constraints in recent weeks. Please do not RSVP in the positive if you’re not sure you can make it, as this will deny someone else the opportunity of attending the meeting. If you do RSVP and then need to cancel, please inform me as soon as possible.

Once you’ve received a meeting confirmation, go out and discover yourself an interesting and distinctive bottle of Chenin Blanc — or simply come bearing $10 for the Wino fund. We’ll see you bad boys and girls on Thursday night.