Chenin Blanc’s honeyed tasting notes have wine lovers buzzing.
A lot of white wines are described as tasting “honeyed”: viognier, some new-world chardonnay, roussanne from France’s Rhône Valley. But for me, no grape captures the essence of artisanal honey—not the sickly sweet stuff that comes in a plastic bear—than chenin blanc. When made in the austere manner, it’s all minerality and green apple, but when a winemaker in the Loire or South Africa lets the grape ripen and allows some natural sweetness to develop, it’s as if you walked right into the hive and started gnawing on some honeycomb—rich, textured and a touch waxy—with none of the stinging side effects.
3 "Honeyed" Wine Picks:
2013 Quail’s Gate Chenin Blanc ($16)
This is a marvellous value, and whereas in years past it emphasized the more pithy characteristics of the grape, it seems to be moving ever so slightly to a richer take—it reminds me of a lime dipped in honey, perhaps.
2013 Domaine de Vaufuget Vouvray ($22)
Vouvray represents the grape’s actual pinnacle (if you like a honeyed version; if you like mineral, it’s in neighbouring Savennières). This bottle is the classic off-dry style. Here, the vines average 40-plus years of age and the grapes are heavy with sweet stone fruit and floral notes, sturdied by a nice acidic backbone.
2012 Bellingham Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc ($25)
South Africa produces nearly twice as much steen (what they call chenin) as France, and while much of it is forgettable, when it’s on point like this—honey-roasted nuts mixed with nasturtiums—it represents very close to the grape’s pinnacle.