Chenin is a start of the wine world. Equally at home in The Loire and The Cape it is a hugely versitile grape. Like Riesling it can age for a generation or more, gaining layers of complexity as the years roll by.
Mulderbosch's gorgeous Chenin
Chenin blanc (known also as Pineau de la Loire and Steen among other names), is a white wine grape variety from the Loire valley of France, though today it is more widely planted in South Africa. Its high acidity means it can be used to make everything from sparkling wines to well-balanced dessert wines. In the Loire look for names like Vouvray, Anjou, Saumur and Savennieres.
Outside the Loire it is found in most of the New World wine regions; it is the most widely planted variety in South Africa, where it is also known as Steen. The grape may have been one of the first to be grown in South Africa by Jan van Riebeeck in 1655, or it may have come to that country with Huguenots fleeing France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Chenin Blanc was often misidentified in Australia as well, so tracing its early history in the country is not easy. It may have been introduced in James Busby's collection of 1832, but C. Waterhouse was growing Steen at Highercombe in Houghton, South Australia by 1862.
It provides a fairly neutral palate for the expression of terroir, vintage variation and the winemaker's treatment. The best have an unforgettable intensity, and medium sweet or full-on sweet versions can, like Riesling age a generation or more, gaining complexity as the years roll by.