On Monday 18th May the WING group met to taste Chenin Blanc Wines, guided by Anna and Paul.

We all know the qualities (deep acidity and almost indestructible longevity), and versatility (from bone dry, through sparkling and demi-sec to softly sweet, hors d’oeuvres level wines, to fully botrytised dessert wines) of Chenin. It’s one of my favourite grapes, I particularly like the combination of richness and acidity one can find. So I was interested to taste these examples.

Paul and Anna showed us a grower-sourced Loire example against a Ken Forrester, Stellenbosch, South African, equivalent (from Great Western Wines) at three price points: £10; £12 & £24. All the wines were dry: startlingly- in the case of the Loires; more-or-less- in the case of the South Africans.

Here are my notes:

Jasnieres “St Jacques” 2011 (Domaine Gigou)
Pungent, slightly vegetal first note – a dusty nutty element and hints of honey. On the palate very dry with a flinty minerality, fruit acid of warm apples and orange peel – very big but very structured. Later a pea-shoot herbiness appears… Not really typical but very interesting.

Petit Chenin 2013 (Ken Forrester)
White stone fruit and some honey sweetness in a rather simple nose. Not quite dry and much softer than the French wine, some acidity with a warm finish with some herbal hints. By comparison rather light and simple though…

 

Montlouis “Remus” 2013 (Domaine de la Taille aux Loups)
Strong linseed nose, with later a slight sweet fruit hint – greengage? This has sharp lifting citric acidity on the palate, with herby and oily nut elements later. Very mouth puckering, but later the wine starts to resolve… Needs at least 3 years in the cellar, maybe 13…

Old Vine Chenin 2013 (Ken Forrester)
Immediate oaky and honey nose… Oily palate with a warm balance, supported by a consistent line of acidity. A different kind of wine altogether – showing an almost Burgundian weight and balance of richness and acidity. Quite satisfying but not really the same animal at the Montlouis!

 

Savennières “Clos du Papillon” 2008 (Domaine du Closel)
Notes of straw, intense honey and hints of baked apple and passion fruit with some herbs later. Amazingly sharp wine following such a sweet nose, with an intense but stable acid line underpinning sweet apple and apricot elements, attenuated by a slight oxidization. Very complex and satisfying wine in an inimitable style.

The FMC 2012 ­(Ken Forrester)
Immediate nose of everything Chenin  – honeysuckle, apple honey, passion fruit, apricot, melon… Palate has an integrated sweet warm fruit and a fudge note balanced by a warm acidity that runs right through the wine, but much warmer and softer than any French example. This is very good, a deluxe example of the previous KF wine, but again a different animal entirely to anything French – with warmer and softer – though no less prominent – acidity.

 
A very interesting tasting which seemed to show that SA Chenin isn’t really the same sort of wine as the Loire version – just as Australian Shiraz is best judged on its own merits rather than compared to Northern Rhone wines. That said the last pair are both worthwhile in different situations. But the wine I’d buy and cellar??? The Montlouis!

We’ll return to Chenin at the ICC in a couple of months.
In the meantime thanks so much Anna & Paul…….

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