The Indispensable Chenin Blanc Wine Guide

October 9, 2013 Blog » Learn About Wine » The Indispensable Chenin Blanc Wine Guide

Chenin Blanc

What is Chenin Blanc? A light-bodied white wine similar to both Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc. What makes Chenin Blanc wine unique is its ability to taste amazing either as a sweet or dry wine.

Chenin Blanc Pronunciation

Chenin Blanc is growing in popularity and this is because more wineries in South Africa (the world’s largest producer of Chenin Blanc) are making it dry. Traditionally, the first Chenin Blanc wines from France were off-dry (aka sweet). Today however, there’s so much variety in Chenin Blanc that it’s time to learn what you’ve been missing out on.

Chenin Blanc is a versatile zesty white wine that pairs particularly well with Mediterranean food, sushi and even hearty meats like veal. Find out more about Chenin Blanc food pairings and its many styles.

A Wide Range of Tastes: Chenin Blanc

As a white wine, Chenin Blanc has a wide range of flavors. Part of the reason for this has a lot to do with the winemaking style. Winemakers in the original growing region for Chenin Blanc in France stop the fermentation before all the sugar is used up. This technique has some benefits: it reduces the resulting alcohol level, makes the wine sweet and increases the wines’ ability to be aged. The Quarts de Chaume AOC in the Loire is famous for some of the sweetest and longest lived Chenin Blancs in the world.
Chenin Blanc Wine Taste Chart
But I like dry wine. Okay, I won’t lie, I do too. Fortunately, if you dig Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, then Chenin Blanc is also available dry. If you’re buying French Chenin Blanc, look for the words Sec on the label. If you buy a South African Chenin Blanc, you’ll find the more affordable versions are produced in a zesty dry style, whereas the higher quality versions are slightly oaked (and a tiny bit sweet).


Bubbly Fact! Chenin Blanc is a primary grape in the awesomely cheap bubbly, Cremant de Limoux, from the Languedoc in the South of France.


Chenin Blanc Wine Characteristics

FRUIT FLAVORS (berries, fruit, citrus)
Apple, Baked Apple, Bruised Apple, Passion Fruit, Pineapple, Mango, Nectarine, Apricot, Tangerine, Mandarin Orange, Lemon, Honeydew Melon
OTHER AROMAS (herb, spice, flower, mineral, earth, other)
Honey, Honey Comb, Ginger, Burnt Sugar, Caramel, Saffron, Apple Blossom, Orange Blossom, Coleslaw (oxidative style), Sake, Cheese Rind (oxidative style), Hay, Baby Diaper

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OAK FLAVORS (flavors added with oak aging)
Buttered Popcorn, Butterscotch, Lemon Curd, Nutmeg, Baked Apple, Graham Cracker, Meringue, Sweet Almond
Medium High – High
Unoaked: ‘Ice Cold’ 45 ºF (8 ºC)
Oaked: ‘Fridge Cold’ 52 ºF (11 ºC)
Hot Climate Chenin Blanc: Chardonnay, Alsacian Pinot Gris, Viognier, Torrontes
Cool Climate Chenin Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Pinot Grigio
Steen (old name in South Africa)
In South Africa, Chenin Blanc is sometimes blended with Semillon, Viognier and Marsanne to make a richer-styled wine similar to an oaked Chardonnay but tasting a touch sweeter. Also in South Africa, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are blended to create a fresh and zesty dry wine. In The Languedoc, Chenin Blanc is blended with Chardonnay and the local grape, Mauzac, to make a refreshing sparkling wine.


Chenin Blanc Food Pairing

Think Sweet and Sour. Because of Chenin Blanc’s awesome acidity and inherently sweet flavor, you’ll find it pairs well with foods that have a sweet and sour element. Southeast Asian cuisine or pork chop with apples with a richer and sweeter style Chenin Blanc will blow your mind.
Hello Turkey Dinner! There are several white wines out there with enough gusto to moisten even the driest turkey. Try a high quality South African Chenin Blanc with your Thanksgiving dinner. It will even handle cranberry sauce like it was born to do so.

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Meat Pairings

Veal, Trout, Chicken, Turkey, Pork Chop, Guinea Foul, Halibut, Smoked Salmon, Terrine, Pâte

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Spices and Herbs

Cinnamon, Dill, Tarragon, Turmeric, Ginger, Fenugreek, Clove, Marjoram, Allspice, Red Pepper Flakes, Cilantro, Cumin, Coriander, Fennel, Macadamia Nut, Peanut, Brazil Nut, Sesame Seed

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Cheese Pairings

Soft to semi-firm cow’s milk cheeses such as triple-cream brie, gruyere, cream cheese, yoghurt and cheddar. Also try herb-crusted goat cheeses.

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Vegetables & Vegetarian Fare

Squash, Jicama, Guava, Shallot, Chives, Savoy Cabbage, Yam, Carrot, Cauliflower, Oyster Mushroom, Corn, Red Bell Pepper, Apple, Quince, Pear

Chenin Blanc Wine Regions

About 94,500 acres of Chenin Blanc planted worldwide.

South Africa 46,500 acres
Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek, Swartland in the (Western Cape)
France 24,200 acres
Loire valley (Vouvray, Savennières, Anjou, etc), Languedoc
Argentina 14,800 acres
USA ~8,000 acres
California, Washington State
Australia ~1,000 acres


Find out more about South African Chenin Blanc at
Find out more about French Chenin Blanc at

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By Madeline Puckette
I'm a certified sommelier and creator of the NYT Bestseller, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine. Find me out there in the wine world @WineFolly