Small area, great variety
The Chenin blanc now grows on just one percent of French vineyards. But its wines are immensely diverse. The homeland of this grape is the Loire Valley. There it muscles into the light-footed frothers of Saumur and Vouvray. The vintners of Bonnezeaux and Quarts-de-Chaume process them into beguilingly sweet wines. And in Savennières it yields dry whites with mineral cores and great aging potential. They smell of apple, honey and fresh straw, and show great body and a stimulating acidity. The world's largest area of Chenin blanc is in South Africa, where it landed in the mid-17th century with Dutch traders. The most exciting wines result from old vines drawn from traditional bush forms.