Week 11 – Chenin Blanc

Tasting Notes

We tasted: Craft 3 Chenin Blanc from M&S at £10 a bottle.

Emma says: “After a full on gutsy red last week this wine really is ringing the changes. The choice of a South African Chenin may be a bit controversial to those who love the versions from its birthplace the Loire. I wanted to give a nod to South Africa because I think they are producing increasingly interesting versions of Chenin in their own particular style.

Their original plantings of Chenin were mainly produced because they grew easily and held their acidity well in the warm climate. If you’ve tried a watery Chenin as a cheap entry level white in a pub or bar then this is probably what you’ve tasted. It’s also used all over the world as a blender grape that adds acidity to more fruity grape varieties like Chardonnay. But hold it there, because it can be so much more interesting and that is what I hope we are all going to taste this week. Grown at lower yields it is still that palate tingler with great acidity but it also has sparkly green apple fruit and is the ultimate crisp thirst quencher. Some producers also oak them which gives an overlap of peppery spice notes.

Onto our wine tonight. Craft 3 Chenin Blanc made by the Land of Hope winery. This is a truly bone dry style. Andy is great at spotting technical things on a wine and immediately noticed it is a bit spritz-y, which may mean they bottled with a touch of carbon dioxide. That makes it even more palate tingly. And the fruit is just like biting into a granny smith apple with a nice zesty lemon back bone. It does have some softer white melon fruit at the core that means it isn’t sour or sharp. And there is a classic hint of smoky white pepper that I often get in South African whites but in a very discrete way. I think fans of Chardonnay, Viognier or New Zealand Sauvignon might not get this wine. It can just seem austere and lacking in fruit oomph. But if you like crisp whites like Pinot Grigio or Gavi then this could be a nice alternative.

All that acidity makes it a fantastic wine to cut through a rich food such as a creamy pasta sauce or risotto.”

Andy says: “I was drinking this during Man Utd’s awful performance in, and subsequent exit from, the Champion’s League. I was in my lucky seat and everything – so now the blame must lie with the wine and not Mourinho’s awful tactics.

The first thing I noticed was a tingle, but that faded as the glass wore on. I do like a good Riesling, which is a high acid grape, and Chenin Blanc is too. I liked this wine, so perhaps I like high acid. It was very clean and crisp, had notes of peach and apple, was a touch ‘white wine-y’ but on the whole it was very, very drinkable. It might have just been the terrible mood I was in, but I could easily have downed it all. Just not when Man U are on, as it’s now my unlucky wine.”

Buying Guide

Chenin Blanc originates from the Loire in France, but we are opting to taste the new world region most famed for its production – South Africa. We will be looking for a unoaked or lightly oaked South African Chenin which will help us to try the grape in its most unadulturated style. To find that go to the South African white section and check the back label to see if oak is mentioned, typically the label will state if it is used in the winemaking. Ken Forrester is a great producer, widely distributed, and a good option if you spot one.

13 thoughts to “Week 11 – Chenin Blanc”

  1. Finally got round to drinking Chenin Blanc. Pretentious, self-important Chenin Blanc has a wide range of flavours probably achieved by the winemaker in its making.
    Fantastic wine to cut through a rich food such as a cauliflower broccoli gratin lemon and almond cake with raspberries and natural yogurt all of which we had last evening 14/4. This wine has enough gusto to moisten a dry roast turkey.
    It was a beautiful day yesterday we sat outside with this thirst quencher. First mouthful I held and then let go to enjoy a pleasant after burn. Don’t understand how dry white wine can also have a sparkle, there you go, for me Chenin Blanc has both. Obviously Chenin Blanc has an alter ego a pretentious wine.
    A pleasant wine to drink with flavours for me at least of pear, developing characteristic of honey, two foods on my high percentile list.
    Would I drink this wine again – you bet. Would I pay £10 for it again? Not on your Nelly.

  2. I’m playing catch up at the moment so just for round to tasting the Chenin Blanc. This week I chose one from Majestic wines own label ‘Definition’ Chenin Blanc 2017. I tried a Pinot Noir from their definition range too and found them both to be of a very good standard. Priced at £9.99 I’m really enjoying the peach and pear flavours of the Chenin. Flavoursome and refreshing – yet again I’m thinking I’ll be purchasing this one again. I used to drink Chenin Blanc many years ago and for some unknown reason fell out of love with it. This was a great reminder of what I’ve been missing

  3. Raats South African Chenin Blanc 2017 Unwooded
    Medium yellow color with an apple aroma. It had an apple lime taste. Everything I’ve read about this wine states it has a long mineral finish. It was more like licking a wet stone. Very little flavor as if it had been watered down. Glad to have tried it but would not recommend it.

  4. I’ve not drunk a lot of Chenin Blanc or South African wine in the past so this was nice foray into less familiar territory. I tried a Stellenrust Chenin Blanc 2017 which I found in Sainsbury’s for £13 (13.5%).

    It had a crystal clear, pale straw colour and it was very fresh on the nose. When I opened the bottle I found it had an interesting herby scent (or maybe even a scent of wet wool). Then came pineapple, citrus fruit and crisp apple with a touch of melon giving it a nice rounded fruitiness.

    To taste is was fruitier and less sharp than I expected. Medium dry and nicely rounded. I got pineapple and melon at first and then a surprise acidic finish of crisp apple leaving my mouth watering.

    Overall, I thought it was lovely. Easy drinking that surpassed my expectations. The acidic finish balanced nicely with the fruity pineapple. You have to drink it quick though – the next day it had become a bit too acidic.

    1. Hi Will, “Wet wool” is spot on for Chenin and I often get an ashy note (in a nice way) from South African versions too. I agree that the plus point of New World Chenin is you get a good dose of tropical fruit to balance out all of that acidity. Sounds like you found a good one.

  5. Shame it’s not more summer like as the Chenin Blanc I bought – boring I know but leopards leap £5 from Sainsbury’s- is a perfect summer afternoon drink!
    Still complemented my roast chicken well and am now enjoying this on its own.
    Had a slightly zingy, acidic after taste but could smell and taste grapes and is an easy drinking pleasant wine.

  6. It is a long time since I have tasted Chenin Blanc.

    My recollections are of it being fairly bland and unexciting. Inevitably, in those days, it became the go-to white for blending with Chardonnay.

    I was in a bit of a hurry and grabbed the only South African Chenin Blanc on the shelves of our local Waitrose. It was only £4.99. Sorry about that!

    The wine was: First Cape Special Cuvee Bush Vine Chenin Blanc NV 13%

    And it was quite pleasant. Nothing complex, but probably quite pleasantly refreshing on a summers’ day and good with salads, white meat and fish.

    It’s appearance was clean, bright and pale green.

    It was very fresh on the nose with soft fruit, appley and slightly honeyed aromas.

    The wine was delicate on the palate, with a pleasant prickle of acidity. Hints of apple and gooseberry.

    Slightly honeyed finish with hints of peach. Long and refreshing.

    The wine won’t win any prizes, but it is light years away from the Chenin Blanc of old. For its very modest price this felt like a reasonably well made wine.

    1. Hi Ian, Good to hear your thoughts on this wine. £4.99 does seem well priced. If you liked it I would definitely encourage you to look out for a slightly more premium one if the future. You may be pleasantly surprised by what complexity it really can achieve in goods hands!

  7. Ive tried the South African wines, Craft & Workhorse Chenin Blanc from M& S, and I like them very much They both have a crisp slightly apple/ pear flavour , but I find that the Workhorse Chenin Blanc has a more oak / peppery flavour then Craft
    If you haven’t tried Chenin Blanc , I would highly recommend these 2 wines, and so reasonably priced too

  8. I have always really enjoyed a South African Chenin Blanc, but i struggle to find them in our usuall supermarket or Majestic and find the French varieties a bit on the “sour” side.

    I recently discovered this SA Chenin, which I really enjoy, brace yourself…it’s from Morrisons…Wm Morrison Chenin Blanc 75cl for £7.

    To me it tastes crisp, with a light aftertaste of honey and possibly a touch of pepper? It’s actually very nice and easy to drink and is now one of my default whites!

  9. Although I have occasionally tried a few Chenin Blancs, it’s not really a ‘go-to’ wine for me, so I was really looking forward to this week, as taking a few steps outside of your comfort zone seems to be the main idea behind 52Grapes. Because of this I bought 2 wines this week, both the recommended style (lightly oaked) and a Loire Chenin Blanc as a contrast.

    Wine 1 – Bellingham ‘The Bernard Series’ Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2017 (Majestic, £11)
    The Bottle Says ‘tropical fruit, honey spicy oak’

    I definitely got the tropical fruit (mainly mango and melon) and the honey, with a touch of white pepper. It had quite a soft, gentle aroma which belied its quite crisp and acidic nature. This was a lovely expressive wine, and would be excellent with various different types of food.

    Wine 2 – Chateau de Varennes 2013 AOP Savennieres (Majestic, £15)
    The Bottle Says ‘fruitiness, minerality, citrus, hazelnut, apricot’

    This was much more complex than the first wine, and had all of the above flavours (and more), with the hazelnut dominating. There was also an overall butteriness, and also, surprisingly, a hint of petrol as in some aged Reislings. This was by far my favourite of the two, a definite ‘WOW’ wine that I will explore further.

    This was a great introduction to a little-known wine for me; can’t wait to see what everyone else’s experiences were.

    1. Hi Jason, Really nice to get your contrasting comments on Chenin. I’m definitely a fan of Loire “Savennieres” style. They have that same sort of mineral complexity to good Chablis for me. So I’m glad you put the spotlight on that sort of style as well as South African Chenin.

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