Chenin blanc

In the early days of a wine blog, there are several milestones: the first time you press the “publish” and share your thoughts and yourself with the world. You get your first follower who is not a friend or relative. The day you get your first wine sample to review. This milestone has been reached one year after I began my blogging journey. Let me tell you, it was well worth the wait.

The Vintner project asked me to contribute a piece about Vincent Careme and Tania, winemakers from both the Loire Valley in France and South Africa. While I’m sleeping on most days, Vincent Careme and his wife, Tania, are busy making wine in both hemispheres. In both regions, Chenin Blanc is the primary focus. While I don’t avoid Chenin Blanc, I also do not actively seek it out. The majority of the I’ve had has either been underwhelming or overly full of that wet wool smell that you get from Loire Chenin Blancs. It’s not a bad smell, but I prefer it in my sweaters rather than my wine glasses.

Before I opened my samples, I conducted some background research about Chenin Blanc in the hope that I would be able to understand better (and enjoy) what I was tasting.

Chenin blanc – The Grape.

The Anjou region in France is where Chenin Blanc was born. It’s located in the middle of the Loire Valley. The grape was probably cultivated in 845 A.D., but the name “Chenin Blanc,” which first appeared in print only in 1534, is not known to have existed until then. France is home to just under 25,000 acres of grapes. In South Africa, it is the most planted grape variety, with 46,000 acres. Also, Chenin is grown in Argentina, Washington State, and California.

Chenin Blanc can be used to make a variety of wines, from still to sparkling (i.e., Cremant de Loire, lusciously-sweet wines (i.e., The Quarts de Chaume and some fortified wines, especially in South Africa, are examples of this. Still wine Chenin has a high acidity and aromas of citrus fruits (tangerines and lemons), golden or green apples, and honeysuckle. ., which is exactly what I like to drink. Then I ask myself, “Why don’t I drink more of these wines?”!

Chenin Blanc, unlike Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, which are ubiquitous in restaurants and wine stores, is not as common. The grape is not trendy like Assyrtiko, Gruner Veltliner, or Assyrtiko (although it’s a lot easier to say!) My WSET Unit 2 textbook even says that Chenin Blanc is unfashionable. It’s a fact that I don’t drink much Chenin Blanc because I don’t think about it. Out of sight, out of mind. A good producer can help change that. . .

Chenin Blanc Wines.

The samples are now ready. . . As always, I am the sole owner of all thoughts and opinions.

Terre Brulee 2017 “Le Blanc” Chenin Blanc, Swartland (South Africa). (13% abv)

  • Color: Pale lemon-gold
  • Aromas: Lemon yellow, honeysuckle, mild, and mineral (wet stones). There are also some herbal notes.
  • Acidity: Medium body, high acidity. The palate is more tart than expected, with flavors of unripe pear and green apple.
  • My thoughts: Crisp, super-refreshing wine. While I love acid bombs (and tend to gravitate toward them), it may be too much for others. If this is the case, I would recommend pairing it with a salad with a vinaigrette that has a bit of a kick.
  • Technical Bits: Vincent and Tania established the Terre Brulee Estate in 2013. The soils are mainly shale or granite. It is located about an hour from Cape Town. The grapes are harvested by hand and pressed as whole bunches. Wild yeasts and only natural wild yeasts are used to ferment the grapes.

Domain Vincent Careme 2017 ‘Spring’ Vouvray, Loire Valley, France. (13% abv)

  • Color: Pale lemon-gold
  • Aromas: This one has a slightly riper yellow fruit aroma – apples, pears, white flowers, and white mushrooms.
  • Palate: Medium body, medium+ acidity. Honeysuckle, chamomile, and other flavors were detected. The ‘Le Blanc’ has a creamier texture and a riper palate.
  • My Thoughts: This wine seemed a bit more complex than the first. The wine was more balanced because the acidity wasn’t as linear or savage.
  • Technical Bits: The Chenin grapes used in ‘Spring” are sourced from growers that Vincent has worked with for many years. They allow Vincent to offer him assistance and input throughout the entire year. These vineyards have a variety of soils, from flint and clay to limestone. The grapes, like his South African Chenin wine, are harvested by hand and a whole bunch pressed. Native yeast fermentation is also used.

Domaine Vincent Careme 2015 ‘Le Clos’ Vouvray, Loire Valley, France. (13.5% abv)

  • Color: Medium- lemon-gold
  • Aromas: Yellow apple, yet again! Honeysuckle soft cheese white mushroom and slightly nutty aroma
  • Palate: Medium body, medium+ acidity. Long-ass finish. Also, a creamy texture. Here, you’ll find flavors from all over, including tangerine and orange blossom. You’ll also see apricots, apricot blossoms, and the beginnings of something like marmalade.
  • My Thoughts: This wine is delicious. I like wine, where I can go back and discover something new on the nose or taste each time. I paired this wine with chicken/mozzarella spaghetti the second time. Both times, it was delicious.
  • Technical Bits: “Le Clos” is a single-vineyard wine made from bush-trellised vines that are 50 to 70 years old. The name’ Le Clos’ means “a stone wall encloses enclosed vineyard” and the six-acre property. The soil is tuffeau, a fine-grained, chalky limestone that can only be found in the Loire Valley. The grapes were hand-picked and whole bunch-pressed, just like the other Chenins. The native yeast fermentation took place in amphoras made of clay, followed by 12-month lees aging.

Overall, these samples were very impressive, and I will be looking for more Chenin Blanc in the local wine shop. Please visit Cape Classics to find out if these wines are available in your area. This is not an advertisement; I liked their wines.

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