French, fresh and forgotten... These three words describe Chenin Blanc at the best of times but this week they took on a whole new meaning here at Regional Wines, with the discovery of a case of an outstanding Vouvray from Bernard Fouquet in our warehouse.
Chenin Blanc is one of the great whites of the wine world. It ages so well that, if this wine hadn't been unearthed for another decade - or two - it would be even better than it tastes right now.
The wine is sealed with a screwcap, so it is incredibly consistent in quality and style. It is the 2017 Bernard Fouquet Cuvee de Silex Vouvray AOC.
It's timely to talk about Chenin Blanc right now because we are planning our third annual tutored tasting devoted to this wine - for May this year (details below in this blog).
Chenin comes from the drop dead gorgeous Loire Valley, a region often described as the garden of France and also home to the country's longest river - the Loire.
It is one of the most versatile white grapes on Earth. It can be used to make top quality sparkling wine (its naturally high acidity marries harmoniously with carbon dioxide, giving both bubbles and freshness).
It can make full bodied dry whites beautifully, such as Mont Louis, Savennieres and Vouvray; all 100% Chenin Blanc appellations in the Loire Valley.
Then again, it's also the sole ingredient in some of the world's most outstanding sweet wines, as wines from Coteaux du Layon and Quarts de Chaume show. These appellations often fly under the sweet wine radar because they are frequently eclipsed by wines such as sauternes and the great sweet whites of Germany. - And, perhaps most surprising of all, Chenin Blanc often costs a fraction of the price of France's other great white wines labelled champagne, white burgundy or sauternes. Of course, the flavours are different too.
Chenin Blanc's high acidity is one of its dead giveaways. As are its green apple, clover honey and dried grass flavours. It's a wine that can age for decades and it deserves to be more prominent in New Zealand than the paltry 22 hectares currently planted in this country.
* This May we will highlight a handful of New Zealand's top Chenin Blancs from Mount Edward in Central Otago to Forrest Estate in Marlborough to Millton in Gisborne.
Regional's 2019 Chenin Blanc tutored tasting
Thursday 16 May, 6pm to 8pm
Upstairs tasting room at Regional Wines & Spirits, Wellington.
The full list has yet to be confirmed but we can promise you a taste of great whites made 100% from the Chenin Blanc grape from a bunch of maverick winemakers such as Duncan Forsyth in Central Otago, James Millton in Gisborne and Florent Baumard in the Loire Valley.
These guys are movers and shakers who have pioneered organic viticulture, are at the forefront of biodynamic viticulture and winemaking methods and who have been among the first in New Zealand's remote corners to make Chenin Blanc - and amongst the first in the world to spear head screwcaps ahead of cork in a quest for quality and consistency.
Their wines will be featured alongside other top Chenin Blancs.
This is a must-attend tasting.