In the mid-20th century in California, chenin blanc was often used in inexpensive pitcher wines and sweet whites, before interest seemed to ebb in favor of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Over the past decade, however, the state has experienced a sort of mini-renaissance, with the rediscovery of old parcels of Chenin Blanc and a resurgence of interest in wines.
Apart from a few other pockets – let’s not forget Limoux in Languedoc, where it is part of a blend of Crémant de Limoux, a sparkling wine – we don’t see a lot of Chenin Blanc.
This month, I thought about trying Chenin Blancs from three different regions: Chinon in Touraine, Swartland in South Africa and Dry Creek Valley in California. This is not a microscopic examination of the terroirs but an opportunity to drink and compare different expressions. The three bottles that I offer are:
AA Badenhorst 2019 Swartland Chenin Blanc Pruners (Broadbent Selections, Sonoma, CA) $ 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
They are entry-level wines, although the price of Baudry may be inflated by the tariffs that President Donald J. Trump imposed in 2019 on certain wines and spirits in the European Union, a tariff that has been temporarily suspended as the United States and Europe is trying to settle trade disputes.
If you can’t find these producers, think of Ken Forrester, Thistle & Weed, Raats Family, Mullineux, Storm Point or Mother Rock among the South African Chenin Blancs; Lo-Fi, Field Recordings, Sandlands, Lieu Dit, Broc Cellars, Lang & Reed or Rococo among Californian producers; and Huet, Breton, Château Yvonne, François Chidaine, Michel Autran, Vincent Carême and many others from the Loire Valley.