Thursday, January 24, 2008

You Say Party, I Say Chenin Blanc

The following videos are devoted to things of the miraculous Chenin Blanc grape. The first gives a glimpse into the lives of the winemakers at Domaine du Closel- a female-owned and run domaine that produces some of the most celebrated Chenin Blanc in France. The second explores the 2007 harvest of Chenin Blanc in South Africa through the eyes of the Rudera winemaker.

Then, I've included a version of something I wrote for our shop's newsletter, called "You Say Party, I Say Chenin Blanc."

Wine Spectator: Five Generations of Women- Chenin Blanc from Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, Loire Valley, France

Chenin Blanc in South Africa
Episode 17 - the 2007 South African Harvest- Rudera label

Most grapes ask for details before saying yes to an invite. They like to know the party specifics- the who, the where. Barbera D’Alba inquires whether tomatoes will be among the guests. Hipper chardonnays like to know if the event’s being thrown in an oak barrel or stainless steel tank, and Petite Sirah just generally refuses to come if a wine bigger than itself was invited. On the contrary, Chenin Blanc rarely cares when, where, with whom and certainly never asks why when invited to a bash. It simply arrives.

This little grape that originated from the French Loire Valley is an unquenchable party wine for one main reason. It does whatever it takes to make the party flourish. Chenin Blancs come in an amazing range of flavors, from honeyed and floral to lime and mineral and from quince to pineapple. And more. If a guest doesn’t like off-dry wines, a bracing, high-acidity New Zealand or South African Chenin Blanc should quiet their complaints. Or, if still wines aren’t their thing, a sparkling from Loire Valley’s Vouvray region could shake up their night.

Beyond the broad range of grape, the most glorious thing about Chenin Blancs and bashes is how amazingly they pair with popular party foods. You say party, I say food. Their honeyed, floral, quince, melon and lime scents (whether sweet or dry) and fierce acidity and mineral grip can hold up to foods that are thought of as wine-picky.

For example, take Superbowl party foods. If someone mistakenly sets down their beer while dipping a chip in guacamole, replace it with a mineral-flecked, lime centered Chenin Blanc from New Zealand or South Africa. It’s okay if you want to hide until the grape reveals its glory. The wine’s big acidity, mineral and lime characteristics shine when matched with the creamy avocado, zesty onions and garlic. Mango salsas? Also yes. Serving chicken wings or jerk? Toss either with a dry Chenin Blanc from Saumur or Savennières, or if super spicy, with an off-dry Chenin from Anjou (all Loire Valley).

Perhaps you are serving Asian cuisine inspired dishes at a different party. Fresh Vietnamese spring rolls dipped in spicy chili-lime sauce can’t be beat with the slightly tropical and mineral 06 Leo Steen Chenin Blanc ($17) from the Dry Creek Valley. Have you heard about the glories of sushi and sparkling wines? At your next sushi bash, pop the cork on a sparkling Vouvray such as the Vincent Carème Ancestrale ($27) and savor with a slice of Hamachi or California roll. Likewise, if you’re inspired by Thai chicken satay or Chinese shrimp dumplings, so is nearly any Chenin Blanc.

Or say you want to have just a few friends over for wine or cheese, or someone you are making eyes at over for dessert. Prepare a cheese plate with fresh or aged goat cheeses, stinky blues, gooey washed rinds and pour a dry or off-dry Chenin Blanc. Superb. Cheeses love the grape’s minerality and the quiet fruit won’t try to steal the cheese’s glory. For that special someone, I strongly believe that a sweet 05 Baumard Quarts de Chaume ($42/half bottle) will lead to great things. If its floral, pear, pineapple and honeyed flavors can seduce fruit tarts, flavored dark chocolates, crème-brulée and apple pies, why not your guest too?

The next time you’re checking your invite list, remember to invite Chenin Blanc. It likes to party as much as you do.

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Jerry said...

Nice post K! A very enjoyable read and you've certainly peaked my curiosity for Chenin Blanc, which is no easy feat for a guy who has a hard time deviating from reds. perhaps I'll get my Chenin on at my next partay!


Kirstin said...

I'd suggest going very slowly the first time if you're not used to such a party wine

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