Since the 11th Century, France’s famed Loire Valley has produced lovely wines from the chenin blanc grape. The wines from Savennieres and Vouvray vary from dry to sweet, pair with a variety of foods quite well, and seem to age marvelously, lasting decades or more.
Wines labeled as chenin blanc might be even more familiar to most domestic wine consumers, although it could be the kind of familiarity that breeds contempt. This is because it wasn’t that long ago that domestic chenin blanc frequently was grown in high volumes, often merely to fill inexpensive jug wine bottles. Or, if it didn’t meet that ungracious fate, the varietal was commonly blended with other domestic white wines to create an inexpensive, almost generic, wine.
Although New World sources have not rivaled the original wines from France, more recent efforts to make quality chenin blanc in the U.S. and in several Southern Hemisphere countries has been fruitful.
For instance, South Africa has been growing chenin blanc since the Dutch settled there in the 1600s, while creating a trade route to India. Some delicious, fruity yet dry wines, often from some from very old vines (such as Ken Forrester, Badenhorst Secateurs) are coming in from this region at fantastic prices—from $10 to $15. Available locally at Wine Exchange, Best Wines Online, and Southern Hemisphere Wines.