Looking for a simple, quiet, enjoyable sipping wine for a hot summer afternoon, a picnic, or just sitting outside on the patio at sunset with your dog? Try a Chenin Blanc.

The aroma of Chenin Blanc includes hints of honey, melon, peach and other fruits. Its crisp taste is due to the acid level of the wine. It”s perfect with light dishes and complements most appetizers and light dinners or lunches.

While California produces a respectable Chenin Blanc, the best known Chenin Blanc grape is from the Loire Valley of France, producing a wine called Vouvray.

Producers Across the World

Chenin Blanc can be traced back to the ninth century in Central Loire, France. To this day Central Loire produces the finest examples of Chenin Blanc.

In South Africa, Chenin Blanc is known as Steen. Chenin Blanc Cosecha Tardia and Drostdy Hof Chenin Blanc are excellent examples of South African Steen. The Chenin Blanc grape is an important part of the South African wine industry; Nearly a third of vines in South Africa are Chenin Blanc.

In Brazil, Chenin Blanc is planted as Pinot Blanco. The grape is also grown in Chile, Mexico and Argentina, where there are over 10,000 acres of the grape. In comparison, Australia has close to 1,500 acres and New Zealand has 500.

In California, Bonny Doon Chenin Blanc from the Bonny Doon winery is well known and respected. In general, however, the California climate is not conducive to Chenin Blanc grape production. Unfortunately many comments on California Chenin Blanc use words such as “bland” or “blah.”

The Cream of the (Wine) Crop

Wine connoisseurs, without exception, say that the very best Chenin Blanc comes from the grape”s birthplace, the Loire Valley. Overproduction for quantity rather than quality everywhere else results in mediocre Chenin Blanc, critics say, while French vintners take their time and do it right.

Vouvray produces one of the best lines of Chenin Blanc, and names like Savennieres, Montiouis and Saumur, are also very well respected. A sparkling wine, Cremane de Loire, is also rated as outstanding.

California Chenin Blancs

While Californian Chenin Blanc labors under a bad (and many would say deserved) reputation, a few Californian wineries produce some good Chenin Blancs. Here are some recommendations for California Chenin Blanc labels and their approximate prices:

  • Ballentine Vineyards ($14)
  • Callaway Chenin Blanc ($7ish)
  • Casa Nuestra ($16)
  • Hogue ($8)
  • Pine Ridge ($10).

The taste and smells of a Chenin Blanc, no matter where it”s produced, are fruity and citrusy. Honeydew melon, lemon, orange and other fruits can be detected by a good nose and palate.

While a reasonably good Chenin Blanc comes in between $8 and $20, you might want to treat yourself and invest in a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley: a sure bet, if somewhat more expensive. A good, crisp, refreshing glass of cold Chenin Blanc goes well with just about anything, including a relaxing day under a shady tree.