JWL Issue #010: What is chenin blanc?

July 10, 2018

Some wine decisions are conscious: like when we opened a bottle of a 2013 bottle of Upperton Alia recently having put an offer on a house. Others seem to fall together serendipitously.

The last few weeks have included a surprising number of chenin blancs almost entirely by chance. This join the dots trip started a with a friend’s birthday at Westerns Laundry, via The Coach in Farringdon and ended up  a celebratory bottle following the England Sweden game on Saturday. 

It felt like a good opportunity therefore to have a chenin-focused issue. As a note, selections this week include some higher-priced examples than usual: but are highlighted for interesting comparison. 


At Westerns Laundry, we drank the Clos des Trielles (available for £22 here). It’s a low intervention wine that’s wild but refreshing, with crisp, green fruit aromas on the nose. Perfect with the seafood lunch it was served with.

Domaine Jousset’s Premier Rendez-Vous (Good Brothers Wine Bar, £38) is a treat of a special wine, and one we drank this weekend to celebrate England’s advancement to the semi-finals. This is juicy and full-bodied, with a seemingly contrasting mix of butteriness and tanginess on the nose and palate. There’s lemons, apples, nettles, and even a hint of banana there. This is a very nicely complex wine.

Down a price bracket, the Vouvray Sec Silex Vigneau-Chevreau 2016 was salty and floral, a really lovely combination enjoyed while eating half a pint of prawns and some steak tartare. 2019 from Hennings Wine for £17.99.

As for the supermarkets, Tesco Finest Chenin Blanc (£7.50) is a very affordable quaffer too. Green fruit is here again, this time with some spicy and honey flavours to give a bit of depth. Why not try this typical South African display, alongside the Vourvray for an interesting chenin comparison?


You might know chenin blanc either from South Africa, or under it’s French heritage region of Loire. Chenin is a versatile grape producing dry and sweet wines, as well as sparkling. Well-ripened, it is aromatic and might smell and taste of peach and other stone fruits. The less-ripened it is, the greener those aromas: think apples and pears. 

The Loire has three parts to it, Upper, Middle and Lower. The Middle Loire is where chenin thrives, with notable regions including Touraine, Vouvray, and Saumur. Loire chenin is floral, flinty, and honeyed, with big acidity. South African chenin, where most of it is made, can be fuller with the peachy stone fruit flavours dominating.

Like chardonnay, chenin can be oak-aged bringing with it nutty, toasty, honey aromas.  It has fallen in and out of vogue over the centuries. There are highly commercial displays out there, typically crisp, bland and anonymous. But dig deeper and you should be able to find some real delights.


Surely all wines that have a smell are aromatic, right? Well actually no. ‘Aromatic’ refers to a floral composition in the nose that’s usually highly complex. Prominent aromas might include rose, orange blossom, jasmine or geranium. It’s almost always used to describe white wine. For the science-y among you, aromatic white wines appear due to the high level of monoterpenes.

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