French / Loire Valley
Chenin Blanc / $21 - $27
Chenin Blanc is originally from the Loire Valley in France. Over the years, its reputation has been sullied, especially in the United States, because of its use in many low quality generic box wines.
This grape is represented worldwide. In the United States it grows very well in California. Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina also has a suitable climate for growing success. In South Africa where it is called "Steen", it thrives. It is often used in all of these countries to bottle as a varietal, and quite often blended to boost the acidity of Chardonnay. When Chenin Blanc is made well, it is a beautiful wine. From bone dry, to sweet dessert wine, this grape has incredible versatility.
Francois Chidaine has been growing grapes and making wine most of his life. He worked side by side with his father Yves and learned bu "hands on" experience. Learning from his father, Francois still manages the vineyard using tried and true methods. "Les Argiles" refers to the water retentive clay in the vineyard where these grapes are grown. Although the vineyards are certified organic, he does not make a big deal of this fact. The old fashioned methods of viticulture still ring true for him, and in his opinion make the best wine.
This 2005 vintage is luscious. It is straw colored and fragrant. Tropical pineapple, lilac, quince and grapefruit attack the nose. It is full of fruit, but beautifully balanced with acidity. It has good concentration of fruit, and has a wonderfully long finish.. This wine is almost dry. Chenin Blanc is one of the few white varietals that can be cellared. This wine should age extremely well.
This wine surprised me. I did not expect I would like it this much. I thought I had been exposed to some decent Chenin Blanc in my travels, but this one has been the nicest to date. I was able to buy this wine for $22. This is a lot of wine for the money and I guarantee that the quality belies the price.
This is imported by Louis Dressner out of New York. It may be a bit tough to find, but it is worth the effort. It is sold in the DC area at MacArthur's Beverage in Northwest, DC. You can also find it on-line.
If you have not had a chance lately to try this varietal, do so. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with what you find.