Sommeliers love Chenin Blanc. It’s one of those classic grape varieties that was seriously overlooked until 10 to 15 years ago when wine professionals “rediscovered” it and began proclaiming its virtues. But while Chenin Blanc doesn’t seem obscure to wine lovers these days, it isn’t nearly as popular as international grapes like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Year after year, winemakers in its home region, the Loire Valley, continue to rip out Chenin Blanc vines in favor of these better-known money-makers.
It’s a shame because Chenin Blanc is actually one of the most versatile grapes in existence. It can make wines in almost any style: sparkling, still, dry, sweet, and everything in between. It can mimic Chablis, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauternes, Champagne, and more. Even within the Loire Valley, different sub-regions and winemaker philosophies create a wealth of Chenin Blanc styles to explore, let alone those produced in South Africa, California, Australia, and beyond.
These 11 bottles are just the start of a Chenin Blanc exploration, but trust us — it’s a delicious journey.
Champalou is one of the more widely available Loire Valley producers on this list, but they don’t sacrifice quality for production. This traditional-method sparkler is mostly high-toned and fresh, with citrus, red apple, and limestone, but a touch of richness and brioche come through on the finish. An excellent contender for go-to sparkling status. Average price: $23
François Chidaine is a devotee of the Chenin Blanc grape, making biodynamic wines in both Vouvray and Montlouis-sur-Loire, located just across the river from each another. His wines can be exceptionally layered and complex, and this sparkling Vouvray is an excellent introduction. Aged for three years before release, it has tons of minerality and savory qualities. Average price: $18
It would be incomplete to discuss Chenin Blanc bottlings without highlighting one from the long-lived Domaine Huet, known for its range of ageable Chenins from three iconic vineyards. Le Haut-Lieu, Huet’s first vineyard, has limestone and clay soil and is best for drinking when young, with soft, fresh orchard fruit, a floral touch, and round texture. Average price: $35
The Loire Valley is full of youthful energy, in terms of both its wines and winemakers. Benoit Courault is a prime example. He practices natural, organic winemaking to make complex, earth-driven wines, such as the single-plot “Gilbourg” from old vines. It has plentiful yellow apple, highlights of honey, and rocky earth, with a round, waxy texture. Average price: $31.
Agnès and René Mosse are former wine bar owners whose wines are favorites among natural wine enthusiasts. Their bottles are lively, savory, and often have just a touch of funk without ever becoming overwhelming. The Anjou Blanc is made from the domaine’s young vines, but that doesn’t make it uninteresting; freshness, spice, and ripe fruit dominate. Average price: $25
This organically produced Chenin Blanc comes from old vines just across the river from Vouvray. It’s richer and more robust than might be expected, with soft but juicy fruit and an undercurrent of nutty, stony savory qualities. Average price: $25
The wines from Sablonnettes are the epitome of what the French refer to as a vin de soif, or “wine for thirst.” They are vivacious and springy, complex but not overly serious in the way that you might feel guilty for sharing them in a casual setting. The P’tit Blanc is utterly drinkable, with fresh citrus, raw almond, and soft apple, plus that unmistakable minerality. It will easily become a favorite. Average price: $18
Savennières is a lovable oddity, a dry Chenin Blanc made from super-ripe grapes grown in the region’s southern-facing vineyards. It is often unmistakable in blind tastings for its combination of richness, searing acidity, and honeyed, beeswax-like qualities. The La Jalousie is a more approachable introduction to the region, with lush peach and Meyer lemon fruit along with river rock minerality. Average price: $25
Sommeliers love Chenin Blanc so much that they are growing it themselves, as exemplified by this wine made by Eric Railsback. Though one might be skeptical that Chenin Blanc would lack character when grown in California, it’s unwarranted. The wine is fresh, crisp, and drinkable, with quite a bit of ripe citrus and a savory finish. Average price: $25
South African winemakers have adopted Chenin Blanc as their “signature” white grape, sometimes called Steen locally. Examples are variable, as some can be overly fruity, alcoholic, and uninteresting, but the Badenhorst “Secateurs” maintains all of Chenin’s best qualities in a more in-your-face, New World version. Cider-like yellow apple and orange juice notes are plentiful, as are savory, earth-driven undertones and tart acidity. Average price: $14
While dry wines are more fashionable to today’s palates, Chenin Blanc can produce some world-class sweet wines, particularly in the region of Coteaux du Layon, where grapes are harvested late. Moulin Touchais is a centuries-old winery that purposefully holds some of its wine for much later release, meaning that it is possible to get decades-old bottles for relatively reasonable prices. The 1996 strikes a balance between honeyed, orange marmalade unctuousness and clean, linear acidity. Average price: $43