If I had to choose one white grape variety to stick to this summer I’d go for Chenin Blanc – one of the most overlooked white grapes with great potential and scope to express so many different styles.
Whether you prefer dry or sweet, light or full bodied, still or sparkling wines – they all can be made from Chenin Blanc, expressing its brilliance and character. Since I discovered this variety for myself, I’m always on the lookout for another nice Chenin Blanc. I’m not a huge fan of New World wines, so most probably it will be from French Loire – the homeland of complex and rare aged Savennieres and diverse wines of Vouvray.
This is where the first of my favourite Chenin Blancs of the last month comes from. The first remarkable thing about 2009 Champalou Reserve, Vouvray is a fine balance between dry and sweet taste.
You don’t get much sugar on the nose with aromas of green apple and a hint of hazelnut. The first hint of sweetness comes only on the palate – which in fact has quite a dry beginning with notes of nuts. But as a piece of music can be modulated from major to minor in the same bar, the taste of the wine is being transformed gradually into gentle sweetness, with nuances of apricots and peaches with crescendo of long beautiful finish of honeyed almonds.
2009 Champalou Reserve has layers of flavours and skilfully creates an illusion of almost being a semi-sweet wine in the beginning.
A second later you realise you’re being played with and in reality the wine is somewhere between dry and off-dry.
My other recent favourite Chenin Blanc is 2008 Sacré Blanc Chenin J.Mourat. Technically it’s classified only as Vin de Pays de Loire, but it shouldn’t put you off this wine.
When I first saw the bottle I was a bit cautious because of the label – it seemed too extravagant to be a decent French wine. But curiosity overruled prejudice and I bought a bottle of this Chenin Blanc. It was worth taking the risk – racy and dry, Sacré Blanc shows what a treat a good aged Chenin can be. Perfectly balancing acidity with freshness of fruit, this rich, creamy wine is extraordinary value for money and great partner for food.