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Keen on Steen? Fun Facts about Chenin Blanc

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

In the US, it seems we focus heavily on Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling when we think of a chilled, summer white. But Chenin Blanc (also known as "steen"), is hard not to love! It's versatile (in fact it can produce sparkling wines, light and aromatic whites, and even brandy!), not to mention it tastes great, too, exhibiting a vast array of flavors. So why aren't we seeing more of this charismatic chameleon? Read on learn more...

1. Similar to Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc is a fussy grape to grow. Its natural acidity is a hurdle for winemakers to overcome and if harvested too early, the wine can become watery and dull. When produced properly, though, these wines can bring out bold, bursting notes - ranging from ginger to banana, brioche to jasmine, and lots of intriguing aromas in between. In fact, Chenin Blanc can be sweet, dry, off-dry, even sparkling!

2. Its complexity to grow and produce is largely why it hasn't exploded like other varietals have in the US. That being said, producers in Texas, Mexico, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel are trying to find ways to master this mystery to make it more available to the masses.

3. While it is the most widely planted grape in South Africa, and grows in California and Washington as well, most wine experts allege that the best Chenin Blanc comes from the Loire Valley of France, where the grape grows sparsely, by comparison. The low yields tend to produce guaranteed quality, which ultimately is difficult to replicate in other growing regions.

4. Speaking of the Loire Valley, the climate in this region leads to uneven ripening of the grapes, so they are usually hand selected (talk about white glove service!) Less ripe grapes are used in sparkling wines, riper grapes are used in aromatic off-dry wines, and the ripest grapes, with concentrated sugars, are used to produce dessert wines often featuring herbal notes like saffron and ginger - yum!

So there you have it; a crash course on Chenin Blanc. If you're intrigued by what you read, check out my IG stories @thecandidcork and give it a taste with me tonight, 8/26, at 5:30pm. See you then, Candid Corkers!

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