Celebrate #DrinkCheninDay Friday, June 17
Chenin Blanc— known also as Vouvray and Pineau de la Loire —has enjoyed varying degrees of popularity over the years. From a grape planted on par with chardonnay in California, it now eeks out vineyard space among more favorable varietals. Thanks to the fact that everyone loves a good underdog, a campaign has been launched to introduce chenin blanc to a new generation of wine drinkers.
The second annual Drink Chenin Day happens on Friday, June 17 when cities across the U.S.— as well as France and South Africa where chenin is a bit more fashionable—will be hosting events such as tastings and bottle specials to promote this versatile white wine.
In Portland, Oregon Division Winemaking Company has been featuring a chenin blanc since their 2013 Division-Villages “L’Isle Verte” Chenin Blanc release and are excited to be a part of Drink Chenin celebrations from San Francisco to Chicago, Philadelphia, D.C. and even New Orleans.
In Yacolt, Washington Moulton Falls Winery pours a chenin blanc made from Columbia Valley grapes and named after their golden retriever/great pyrenees mix, Jake. Their Big Jake Chenin Blanc is a crisp, off-dry wine that owner and winemaker Joe Millea says fits perfectly between their riesling and chardonnay in a tasting. Having just celebrated their fourth year, Millea said he chose to include chenin blanc in their lineup to feature a different white wine than what other area wineries were pouring.
Some folks attempt to compare chenin blanc to sauvignon blanc or ask its similarities to chardonnay. While it is a racy white, it has its own appeal. Simplified, chenin has the minerality of chardonnay combined with the fruit notes of sauvignon blanc while leaning more toward cooler climate notes than the tropical ones that sauvignon blanc is better known for. Also, one can typically smell gooseberry on the nose of a sauv blanc while that would not be characteristic of chenin. Of course, long-aging chenins, found predominantly in France and South Africa, can have complex tropical and even oaky notes, thus proving there are exceptions to every wine generalization.
France capitalizes on its chenin blanc by making it in many styles including Cremant de Limoux from the Languedoc region in the South of France. This is a less expensive way to enjoy bubbles made in theméthode champenoise (traditional method) but not located within the designation.
In some years, chenin is subject to Botrytis cinerea (noble rot) in the Loire Valley and French winemakers will shift gears from an off-dry to dry style chenin and make a dessert wine similar to Sauternes.
It begs the question, then, why has chenin blanc fallen out of favor when it’s displayed such versatility? The answer can only be that with so many varietals to choose from, wine drinkers are inundated with choices (and, possibly, a certain California producer made some pretty cheap jug wine versions in the 70’s).
This June 17, take part in Drink Chenin Day. Seek out some locally-produced chenin blanc like the just-released, crisp, approachable Big Jake Chenin Blanc from Moulton Falls Winery or the newest vintage of Division Winemaking Company’s Division-Villages “L’Isle Verte.” Snap some photos, upload them to social media using the hashtag #DrinkCheninDay and join in the conversation to return this underdog back to its rightful place in the vineyard.
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