Chenin blanc is the ultimate summer grape. Its versatility offers myriad drinking styles from light, crisp aperitif, to richly oaked to delicately sweet; from 30 wines tasted – here are our favourite 12 to suit all budgets.
Western Cape, South Africa: Cambalala Reserve Chenin Blanc 2014
Don’t expect much depth of fruit for this price, but you get fresh apple and pineapple flavours and zestiness. It claims to have a touch of viognier and chardonnay to add aroma and body.
Western Cape, South Africa: Waitrose Fairtrade Chenin Blanc
The best supermarket chenin blanc in our tasting – clean, crisp and dry with citric aromas and a touch of honey on the palate. This was fresh, easy and versatile.
Coteaux du Vendomois, France: Le Carillon de Vendome ‘Cocagne’ Chenin Blanc 2015
Anyone who normally enjoys Vouvray Sec should try this fascinating newcomer. There are lovely, honeyed aromas, initially rich melony fruit refreshed by a blast of acidity like an electric current across the palate, and it’s a good length for the price – a very characterful chenin.
£8.50, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com
Piekeniersklooof, South Africa: The Tea Leaf Chenin Blanc 2014
Our tasters enjoyed this unusual chenin with its pear and pineapple flavours, creamy texture and a distinct hint of tea. It’s made naturally, using wild yeasts, from 70-year -old vines entwined with old tea plants at high altitude (750m) where both plants vie for nutrition; from up-and-coming maker Donovan Rall.
£12, Woodwinters, Bridge of Allan & Edinburgh; Noel Young Wines, Cambridge
Western Cape, South Africa: Devil’s Peak Limited Edition Chenin Blanc 2015
Tasters liked its vibrancy, freshness and fruity notes. It ticks the box for those looking for an attractively dry easy-drinking chenin blanc with a delicate steely feel. Made by Cape winemaker Marinda Kruger-Van Eck, it punches above its price level.
£9.99, Virgin Wines, www.virginwines.co.uk
Franschhoek, South Africa: Allee Bleue Chenin Blanc 2014
Appealing to those who like chenin blanc with vanilla hints and a light creamy palate, this has sundried fruits, dried mango and zesty pineapple undertones. Oak comes from half the fermentation time spent in 400-litre oak barrels; grapes are sourced from cool coastal Walker Bay and inland Franschhoek.
£9.99, Valvona & Crolla, Edinburgh
Swartland, South Africa: Terre Brûlée 2013 Vincent Careme - STAR BUY
Frenchman Careme is now making wine in both France and his wife Tania’s home country, South Africa. This debut Cape chenin blanc from 40-year-old vines on granite soils has striking minerality, a generous mouthfeel, honeyed creamy notes, spicy hints and a fresh finish. Very good.
£10.95, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com
Swartland, South Africa: Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc 2015
Another Swartland chenin blanc from 40-year-old vines, this is made by Chris and Andrea Mullineux, who are based in the delightful outpost of Riebeek Kasteel. There is improved depth of fruit than previous vintages I have tasted, but it’s still a little green. There are herby, melon and pear aromas, and it’s pithy and minerally, but it needs time.
£14.50, Berry Bros & Rudd, www.bbr.com
Paarl & Swartland, South Africa: Tim Martin ‘Chad’ Chenin Blanc 2014 - STAR BUY
New producer Tim Martin sources from 30-year-old dry-farmed vines in Paardeberg, using the traditional method (basket press and wild ferment) and ages in 2,000-litre Austrian oak. This would suit those who like rich, mealy, leesy, characterful oaked chenin blanc. Chad is the vineyard name; serve with pork or chicken.
£18.99, Fine Wine Co, Edinburgh; Kirkness & Gorie, Orkney
Loire, France: Savannieres ‘Fides’ 2012 Eric Morgat
There’s a massive leap in price for this fascinating barrel fermented chenin with rich, mature buttery aromas, honeyed maturity and rich mouthfilling flavours from Savennieres’ schist soils.
£39, Berry Bros & Rudd, www.bbr.com
Loire, France: Vouvray Demi-Sec 2014 Chateau Moncontour
If you hate bone dry whites, this vivid, refreshing chenin blanc has a touch of sweetness and very fine acidic balance on the finish. Serve as an unusual aperitif or with apple tart.
£10, Marks & Spencer
Loire, France: Coteaux du Layon 2015 Chateau de Champteloup
Chenin blanc from Layon’s steep slopes, this has a delicate honeyed sweetness with fresh appley flavours, spicy undertones and a refreshing acid balance, stopping it tasting cloying. Serve with pork or a cheese platter – it’s good value. n
£8.99, Majestic Wine
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