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I am one of the many who have fallen for the charms and delights of chenin blanc.
The latest NZ Winegrowers figures list a paltry 24ha planted here which has it in equal-12th spot (with arneis) in the list of white grape plantings.
While there are only tiny volumes of New Zealand-produced chenin blanc, we get to see good volumes of this grape from France, along with smaller quantities from South Africa, which holds the largest plantings of this variety (sometimes labelled there as steen).
France's Loire Valley has long held the mantle as top producer, though for budding wine enthusiasts it does mean getting your head around the appellation system as the wines are labelled by region, rather than grape variety.
One of the most famous is vouvray, situated to the east of the city of Tours. There, chenin blanc creates racy sparklings, along with still wines ascending in sweetness from sec (dry), sec tendre, demi-sec, and moelleux to the lusciously sweet liquoreux.
Part of the allure of vouvray is its ability to age, with fine examples from good years having enormous potential in the cellar. The added bonus is that these wines are very affordable on release.
Labels such as Champalou, Domaine des Aubuisieres and Marc Bredif are widely available around the country in the $25-$35 range, offering the nifty each-way bet of gorgeous drinking now, yet capable of blossoming in the cellar.
The importers of Marc Bredif Vouvray occasionally bring in ranges of mature vintages, showing how marvellously these wines can age, recently importing the 1971, 1978 (a 40th birthday treat), 1982, 1989 (a 30th in 2019), 1990, 2004 and 2005 vintages, while some 1999 can still be had.
Chase up your favourite wine store for a bottle!
Rating: Excellent to outstanding
Beguiling nose of white flowers, apple, pear, quince and a touch of lanolin. Richly flavoured adding notes of bush honey yet remaining dry, a surge of acidity balance the richness. A long, long carry of flavour adding straw and greengage plum notes.
Wonderful texture, totally mouthfilling, a delight now but will richly repay cellaring.
Rating: Not rated
Dusty, slightly oxidative nose with cooked apple notes. Damp straw, apple, honey on a palate that seems more advanced than I would expect, with a slightly ‘‘sherried’’ hint. I have tried other bottles of this in the past, that have been fresh as a daisy, sadly, this particular bottle is showing some oxidation.
Good bottles should be marvellous.
Beautifully honeyed nose with hints of truffle. Delicious intensity and breadth on the palate with notes of damp straw, grilled pineapple, beeswax and truffle. Marvellous flow through the mouth; the amazing freshness a foil to the depth and richness.
A sweeter style than the younger renditions, travelling magnificently yet still with potential.