A global Chenin mini-study

There’s some interest in Chenin Blanc in California.

I was at the Jackson Family Wines annual winegrowing summit in Santa Rosa, California, and one of the things we did was a tasting of Chenin Blanc from around the world. One of the strengths of Chenin is that it offers stylistic diversity. It can make wines in lots of different styles. It is known for its high acidity, and can produce fresh wines even in arid climates. A lot of Chenin is dry-farmed in warm, dry climates, such as South Africa. It is susceptible to botrytis, powdery mildew and trunk disease. It tolerates downy mildew quite well. And it has medium to high yield potential. For example, Pine Ridge (who make one of the wines in this line-up) get 10 tons/acre from some of their blocks at good quality.

This is a grape variety that has got a lot of potential in California I reckon.

Thibaud Boudignon Savennieres Clos de la Hutte 2019 Loire, France
12.5% alcohol. Biodynamic, schist soils, larger barrels, 15% new. Stony, mineral and bone dry this has lovely intensity of citrus and apple fruit with a juicy, high acid finish. Lovely presence here with some structure. Real finesse and length, too. 94/100

Chappellet Chenin Blanc 2020 Napa Valley, California
14.1% alcohol. From Pritchard Hill, planted in the 1960s. Nice fruit presence with lemon and apple as well as some melony richness. It’s dry with nice presence and purity showing a bit of juiciness and some nice complexity. 92/100

Foxen Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2021 Santa Maria Valley, California
13% alcohol. Lively with good acidity and some spicy notes. Lots of lemony fruit with some crystalline quality, and a long, tapering finish. Orange peel and lemon juice on the finish. Striking stuff. 93/100

Beaumont Family Wines Hope Marguerite 2020 Bot River, South Africa
This has some innate richness with a core of peach, lemon and green apple, but also keen acidity that balances the fruit. Nice precision with some mineral characters lurking under the fruit. Understated but really complex with a sense of precision allied to richness. 94/100

Hartford Court Jurassic Vineyard Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2021 Santa Ynez Valley, California
12.1% alcohol. Own rooted vineyard planted in 1982 at 1000 ft. Lemony and bright with a touch of marmalade and some nice stony characters. There’s a tapering lemony finish with nice weight and a lovely fruity character. Some lime oil hints too. It has some fruit sweetness, but it’s dry. 92/100

Huet Le Mont Demi-Sec 2019 Vouvray, Loire, France
12.5% alcohol. Off-dry with apples and pears, as well as some honey and a mineral dimension. Great balance here on the palate with pear, apple and great balance between the sweetness and the acidity. Really fine. 94/100

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier 2022 California
Chenin from Clarksburg, Viognier from Lodi. Over 100 000 cases of this made. Very fruity and expressive with some pear and peach on the nose. Fruity and expressive with pear and apple and a bit of peach. There’s some melon and table grape, too, and some sweetness countering the acidity. 90/100