Chenin Blanc

aka Gros Chenin, Franc Blanc, Pineau d’Anjou, Vaalblaar Stein


Chenin Blanc is traditionally known as the white wine grape variety from the Loire Valley of France. It probably originated as a mutation of the Chenin Noir in the Anjou wine region in France. It is theorized that Chenin Blanc originated/mutated sometime in the 9th century. From there it traveled to Touraine around the 15th century.

The grape’s popularity is mostly due to its high levels of acidity. This increase in value is evident in Chenin Blanc’s presence in everything from sparkling wines to dessert wines to brandy. For the majority of the grape’s history in the California wine industry, Chenin Blanc was considered as a “workhorse variety” that could be used indiscriminately in bulk and jug wine blends.

Places It Is Grown

Chenin Blanc originated in the Loire Valley of France sometime in the 9th century. As the planting of vines spread within France, the grape also found a home throughout Europe. Some plantings of Chenin Blanc can be found in the Spanish wine regions of Catalonia, Aragon and Navarre.

Known as “Steen”, Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted variety in South Africa. It is estimated that 1/5 of all vines planted in South African are the Chenin Blanc variety. The majority of Chenin Blanc in South Africa is planted in the Stellenbosch, Paarl and Worcester regions. The region of Malmesbury in Swartland also have dedicated acreage set aside for vine plantings.

In Australia 1,500 acres of Chenin Blanc are produced. However, it is mostly used as a blending variety often used with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Australian Chenin Blanc plantings can be found in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia as well as the Swan Valley and Margaret River area of Western Australia. In New Zealand the grape has primarily been planted in the North Island.

Sometime in the 19th century Chenin Blanc was exported to the Middle East. Today, vines can still be found, in limited quantities, in Israel.

Chenin Blanc is widely planted throughout North and South America. In South America, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay produce Chenin Blanc. The grape can be found in all 3 countries of North America. In Canada Chenin Blanc is planted in the Okanagan wine region of British Columbia and in Ontario. For many years plantings in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay were confused for Pinot Blanc. In spite of the mix up, the grape was successfully used in the mass production of white blends.

Chenin blanc is grown throughout the United States. In the areas of Clarksburg, Napa Valley and Mendocino, California Chenin Blanc is widely planted making it the 3rd most planted white wine grape in the state. In Washington state, the wine regions of Yakima and Columbia Valley produce the grape. Also in the northwest, Oregon boasted 44 acres of Chenin Blanc plantings until 2001 when most were uprooted. Other states with plantings of Chenin blanc are New York, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arizona, New Mexico, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Idaho and Texas.

Properties Of Grape

Chenin Blanc is considered the most versatile of all of the wine grape varieties due to its high levels of acidity. You can find Chenin Blanc in crisp, dry table wines, light sparkling wines, dessert wines and brandy. This versatility is both a blessing and a curse. The shear variety of wines to be produced is great, while the inability to discern between the style or sweetness based on labels makes for a hard decision for the novice consumer. Chenin Blanc can also produce a very bland, neutral wine if the vine’s natural growth tendencies are not controlled.

Chenin Blanc is susceptible to bunch rot and sun burn, but to the delight of many vineyards it is resistant to many diseases. While many grapes poorly produce in warm climates, Chenin Blanc flourishes. Its vine vigor, tendency to bud early and ripen late, and its ability to retain its high acidity all add to the grapes many positive qualities.

Chenin Blanc also grows well in many different soil types. In sandy or clay loam the vine can be quite tenacious. While the production rates are fairly consistent, the older the vine gets the more it tends to over produce which hinders the grapes ability to ripen in cooler areas.

If the vine vigor can be controlled in cooler areas the juice turns out to be sweet but high in acid with a full-bodied fruity palate. In the past the acidity of under ripened grapes was often masked with the addition of sugar with unsatisfactory results. Now vintners utilize the less ripe grapes to make popular sparkling wines.

Over the years wine production, especially in Europe, has gotten more regulated. Utilizing DNA investigations to back up authenticity Chenin Blanc has not been spared any scrutiny. This has not been bad for the grape as it has been pegged as the possible parent of Sauvignon Blanc.

Partnering With Food

Rule #1: Matching the alcohol level and body of the wine to the heaviness of the food should make for a proper pairing every time.

Chenin blanc can be very versatile when looking to pair with food. However, due to the wide range of styles of wine that can be produced from and with this one grape thought does need to go into the final choice. Lighter and drier styles of wine can be paired well with light dishes such as salads, fish and chicken. Sweeter styles of Chenin blanc can balance the spice and heat of some Asian and Hispanic dishes. The acidity and balance of medium-dry styles can be paired well with dishes that contain cream sauces and rich dishes like pâté.

Below are a list of foods and dishes that should pair well with different types of Chenin Blanc:

  • Anitpasti (light & dry)
  • Caprese Salad (light & dry)
  • Ceasar Salad (light & dry)
  • Goat Cheese with Herbs (light & dry)
  • Red Tuna Tartare (light & dry)
  • Salmon with Dill (light & dry)
  • Salmon Carpaccio and Lime (light & dry)
  • Scallops (light & dry or medium-dry; depending upon the way it is prepared)
  • Belgian Endive au Gratin (medium-dry)
  • Goose Foie Gras (medium-dry)
  • Pork Roast (medium-dry)
  • Eggplant Fritters (medium-dry)
  • White Truffles Risotto (medium-dry)
  • Ravioli with Seafood (medium-dry)
  • Tapas (sweet)

Restaurants With These Types of Dishes

To view restaurants that serve appetizers, entrees and other dishes that partner well with this grape type, click here….

About americanwinegrape

American Wine Grape Distributors Inc. AKA A. Silvestro Wine Grape, has been in business for over 5 decades. We are wine enthusiasts just like you and want to share in that enjoyment. This is why we are developing a new and exciting platform for growers, restaurants, sommeliers and home winemakers. Our goal is to bring the wine community together and is the driving force behind our new blog.

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