Molly's Meal Match: Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc is a uniquely malleable grape variety. From still to sparkling, light to unctuous, dry to sweet - this wine is for the open minded sipper. It behaves as blank canvas for terroir, allowing the region's natural influences to determine the wine's flavors and aromas. As the leading grape variety of the Loire Valley, and the most widely planted grape in South Africa, it is no surprise there is a vast diversity within this varietal.
Chenin Blanc grapes need to be ripe to develop complexity in the wine it creates. Which can be a challenge to achieve in the Loire Valley, due to its cooler climate. While the cool climate can pose a challenge in procuring ripe grapes, it also aids in keeping grape yields low. The smaller yields result in more complex and concentrated wines.
Chenin Blanc in Loire, also benefits from fungus growth (botrytis). I know, it sounds gross. But, this is the kind of fungus you want...in the vineyard. Botrytis causes tiny holes in the skins of the grapes and water to evaporate from the flesh. Ultimately, leaving behind concentrated flavors, acids, and sugars in the grape to create amazing wine.
Low yield, ripeness level and botrytis are not factors or concerns for Chenin Blanc in South Africa. Due to the warmer weather, Chenin Blanc grows extremely well and is much higher yielding.
This is unfortunately to the benefit of large production co-ops, who pump out less complex and more neutral wines. This same circumstance can seen California, in the jug wine market. Fortunately, the over production of this grape is in decline in South Africa and great wines are being made by small producers.
The variation of terroir and uncontrollable circumstances in the vineyard, have a major impact on the quality of the wine. When purchasing Chenin Blanc, be cognizant that the wine may be quite different from year to year / region to region. I find this incredibly exciting and I highly encourage conducting a tasting to see how the wines vary by vintage and by region. After all, drinking the wine is the best way to learn about it.
Flavors + Aromas: Chenin Blanc Wines
Primary (grape and alcoholic fermentation):
Green fruit: pear, quince, yellow apple, red apple
Citrus Fruit: lemon
Stone Fruit: peach, apricot
Tropical fruit: Pomelo, honeydew melon
Floral: honey suckle, orange blossom, jasmine
Misc: minerals, fresh herbs, tarragon
Secondary (post-fermentation winemaking): allspice, ginger, lemon curd, cream, vanilla
Tertiary (maturation/aging): honey, almonds, damp straw, wet wool
Styles: Chenin Blanc Wines
Dry, Off-Dry, Sweet, Desert
High acidity allows for extended aging - up to a decade.
Regions of note in the Loire Valley:
Anjou: dry to sweet, late ripening, botrytized, honeyed, apricot, the land of excellent Chenin Blanc.
Savennières: highly rated wines, apple, honeycomb, vanilla, with a mineral quality.
Vouvray: all over the place, dry to sweet, mixed bag of taste, you never know what you are going to get, but still worth the sip.
Wine Buying Tips:
If you don't want to be surprised with a sweet wine, look for wines with the sweetness level noted on the bottle.
Be on the look out for "Old Vine" on the label for Chenin Blanc from South Africa or California. This will ensure the grapes used come from low yielding vines.
This is a wine that will work for any occasion. Since Chenin Blanc is produced in a range of styles, pairings can be as diverse as the wine Chenin Blanc creates. The sweetness in the wine, make it a delicious pairing for sweet and sour foods like Thai or Vietnamese cuisine. The high acidity also lends the wine to a flavorful pairing with pungent cheeses and cream based dishes.
Pear Salad & Trader Joe's Pork Gyoza Potstickers
Spier Chenin Blanc
This salad is topped with pomegranate seeds, cambozola cheese, walnuts, sliced pears and a light balsamic vinaigrette. The sweet and sour components in the salad, compliment the sweet notes of pear and stone fruits in the wine. The high acidity of the wine serves as a delightful counter part to pungent cheese, while the gyoza makes a savory addition to the meal.
1/2 cup avocado oil
3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp of Dijon
1 tbsp of packed light-brown sugar
handful of walnuts
salt & pepper (to taste)
Refrigerated Goods: 1 tbsp salted butter
Trader Joe's Gyoza Potstickers
Gyoza dipping sauce of your choice
1. Make the vinaigrette by combining the avocado oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, dijon, brown sugar, salt & pepper to taste. Either shake to blend in a mason jar or whisk in a small bowl. Refrigerate and stir before use.
2. Make the Trader Joe's Gyoza Potstickers, by following the instructions on the bag.
3. When your gyoza is finished cooking, combine your remaining salad ingredients in a bowl.
4. Drizzle your homemade dressing on top.
5. Enjoy your super easy dinner...Maybe one day I will learn how to make my own gyoza.
Pad Thai Chicken Wrap
Kiona Winery Chenin Blanc 2020
Though Chenin Blanc is still a minor grape in WA, the wine has the classic features of high acid and aromas of sweet pear. This one in particular is deliciously chewy and feels full on the palate. The high acidity in the wine and the acidity in the dish are well matched - keeping the flavors of the wine from getting lost or dampened behind the meal.
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 sugar
1 tsp sesame seeds
large flour tortillas
4 oz (1/2 bag of rice noodles)
1/4 cup of roasted peanuts (chopped)
salt & pepper
Refrigerated Goods: 1 cooked and cubed boneless skinless chicken breast
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 lime juiced
green leaf lettuce
fresh cilantro (for garnish)
1. Pre-heat oven to 425, season chicken with salt and pepper to taste and a dash of soy sauce, cook chicken for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool, then dice into cubes or shred.
2. Cook rice noodles per instructions, drain, rinse with cold water, and chill.
3. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, lime, sugar, garlic, and sesame seeds (Thai Sauce). I made a double batch for dipping sauce.
4. In a medium bowl combine the noodles, sauce, and chicken. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the sauce to become fully absorbed by the noodles and chicken. (I put the mixture in the fridge)
5. Build your wrap! Fold in the sides and roll the tortilla, tucking in the delicious filling while you roll.
tortilla > lettuce leaf > chicken-noodle mixture > sprouts > carrots > peanuts > cilantro
Greek Chicken Bowl
Chateau de la Roulerie Anjou Blanc, 2019
This drier style of Chenin Blanc has aromas of pear, opal apples, spice, and a dash of minerality. It's light to medium bodied, with high acidity. The attributes of the wine compliment the herbal flavors in Mediterranean style fare. The creamy cucumber-dill yogurt dressing balances the acidity in the wine and the sweetness in the olives bring the slight sweetness in the wine forward.
1 cup farro
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp parsley
garlic salt (to taste)
salt & pepper (to taste)
Refrigerated Goods: 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
feta cheese crumbles
Tzatziki sauce (I used Opadipity Cucumber Dill Greek Yogurt Dip)
Kalamata olives (sliced)
tomato (Roma) (diced)
red onion (diced)
1. Turn your grill to high heat. Season your chicken with oregano, rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper. Grill for 25-30 minutes, flipping half way through. At the 1/2 way mark, add your mini peppers to the grill to roast.
2. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of 3 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add in 1 cup of farro and turn down to a simmer. Cook stirring occasionally for 25 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let rest for 5 minutes.
3. Dice your tomato, red onion, cucumber and olives.
4. When the chicken is done, let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut it into bite size pieces.
5. Build your bowl!
Farro > Chicken > Tomato > Red Onion > Cucumber > Mini Pepper > Olives > Feta Crumbles > Tzatziki sauce
Fire Roasted Red Pepper-Tomato Soup
with a Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich Carmen
Stevens 2020 Chenin Blanc
This meal match hits the spot on a rainy day. The soup is the perfect balance of sweetness from the tomato / red bell peppers, and the hefty amount of tart goat cheese. Chenin Blanc is delicious wine pairing for this meal. The sweet pear and sour lemon flavors of the wine, highlight these similar elements in the dish.
2 tbsp of avocado oil
1 tsp oregano
4 oz red curry paste
3 cups of vegetable broth
15 oz can of diced fire roasted tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
Refrigerated Goods: 1 cup of heavy cream
6 slices of deli turkey
6 red peppers
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 onion (diced)
tomato slices (steak or roma)
1. Pre-heat to oven 425° . On an aluminum foil lined baking sheet, roast the red peppers for 25-30 minutes. When finished roasting, place peppers in a large covered bowl to cool.
2. Warm olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add in garlic and onion, sauté for 2-3 min. Stirring so they do not burn. Meanwhile, chop the peppers.
3. Add the curry paste, oregano, salt and pepper to the pot.
4. Add the chopped peppers, fire roasted diced tomato, and broth to the pan.
5. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 15 minutes.
6. Sip some tasty Chenin Blanc.
7. Pour the pan contents into a blender and blend until smooth, adding basil to taste (optional).
8. Transfer to a crockpot to keep warm. Stir in the heavy cream.
9. Build your grilled cheese.
bread > goat cheese > 3 turkey slices > tomato > S&P > basil > goat cheese > bread > basil garnish
10. Grill your sandwich in a panini maker for about 5 minutes. For best results allow the goat cheese to come to room temperature before making the sandwich.
11. Serve along side your tasty soup.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Chenin Blanc and checking out these pairing suggestions. If you have feedback, comments, or questions please feel free to comment below, post to The Wine Tails Facebook Page, or message me on Instagram.
Thank you Wine Simple, Wine for Normal People, The Wine Bible, and Wine Folly for providing me with amazing research materials. Follow along with The Wine Tails Pinterest page to see what gets me motivated and gives me inspiration for these pairings.
Cheers and happy sipping!