In mid-20th century California, chenin blanc was used often in cheap jug wines and in sweet whites, before interest seemed to ebb in favor of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. In the last decade, however, the state has seen a sort of mini-renaissance, with the rediscovery of older plots of chenin blanc and renewed interest in the wines.
Aside from a few other pockets — let’s not forget Limoux in the Languedoc, where it’s part of a blend in Crémant de Limoux, a sparkling wine — you don’t see much chenin blanc.
This month I thought we’d try chenin blancs from three different areas — Chinon in the Touraine, Swartland in South Africa and Dry Creek Valley in California. The point is not a microscopic examination of terroirs but an opportunity to drink and compare different expressions. The three bottles I suggest are:
A.A. Badenhorst Swartland Chenin Blanc Secateurs 2019 (Broadbent Selections, Sonoma, Calif.) $16
Leo Steen Dry Creek Valley Saini Farms Chenin Blanc 2019 $18
Bernard Baudry Chinon Blanc Le Domaine 2019 (Louis/Dressner Selections, New York) $35
These are entry-level wines, though the price of the Baudry is perhaps inflated by the tariffs that President Donald J. Trump in 2019 levied on certain wines and spirits from the European Union, a tariff that has been suspended temporarily as the United States and Europe try to work out trade disputes.
If you can’t find these producers, please consider Ken Forrester, Thistle&Weed, Raats Family, Mullineux, Storm Point or Mother Rock among South African chenin blancs; Lo-Fi, Field Recordings, Sandlands, Lieu Dit, Broc Cellars, Lang&Reed or Rococo among California producers; and Huet, Breton, Château Yvonne, François Chidaine, Michel Autran, Vincent Carême and countless others from the Loire Valley.