Chenin Blanc doesn’t really make a lot of people’s Top 10 lists in BC wine. It’s not that common a grape in these parts and for those wine lovers who hunt down their favorite varieties, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Gris are probably going to get more shelf space in BC than Chenin Blanc. But here’s the deal with BC Chenin: It makes some awesome wines.
Chardonnay is going to be a relatively predictable variety. Even unoaked versions can be soft and fruity. Pinot Gris can be soft on its own and Sauvignon Blanc is typically going to be a little on the crisper, more acidic side.
Chenin is more of a chameleon that way. Like Riesling, it can be made into all different kinds of styles. It can be racey and crisp, which is Quail’s Gate’s style, or soft and fruity, which is Road 13′s version made from old vines. Inniskillin makes a Chenin as part of their Discovery series and I recall it falling into the “soft and fruity” category as well, although it has been a while since I last tasted it.
In the “classic regions” for Chenin Blanc in France’s Loire Valley, it is made in all manners of these styles from bone-dry to lusciously sweet and makes a pretty good sparkling wine as well. Famously, Road 13 has tried out Chenin as a sparkler with some great success.
Versatility and taste is what makes Chenin Blanc a great new variety to look for in the wine shop aisles. Many adventurous wine consumers are now looking for something new to step outside the ‘normal’ varieties that we’ve become all to which we’ve all become accustomed: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s not that these grapes make boring wines, quite the opposite. But we, as a wine-buying public, have hinged our tastes so closely to the single-variety wine for so long, it feels great to take a little trip with something different.
Because of it’s versatility, trying to figure out the style of a particular Chenin Blanc might pose a problem. For those who like the real crisp, zesty, and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc or un-oaked Chardonnay would really enjoy the Quail’s Gate Chennin Blanc. If a rounder Pinot Gris or Chardonnay is your thing, may I suggest the Road 13 Old Vines Chenin Blanc.
Outside of BC, the styles will continue to run through the shades of grey in between and beyond the limited amount of styles that are found here in BC. And that’s what makes the wine world exciting! Happy hunting!
Cheers from wine country!