Chenin Blanc is a diverse white wine that comes from France and South Africa. Its variations in flavor profiles have to do with grape ripeness. You can find sparkling Chenin Blanc, as well as a range of dry, fruity and golden varieties.
What to Know About This Loire Valley and South African Grape:
The grapes ripen in uneven patterns, so people have to go through and pick them by hand (kind of like coffee cherries). Depending on when the grapes are picked, you get various flavor profiles and wine colors, from very light white to a deep golden hue.
Chenin Blanc has been grown in the Loire Valley for a long time, and it has more recently come to South Africa. Don't assume the newness of the South African vineyards will affect quality, though. Those winemakers are putting a lot of time and effort into crafting quality wine. Expect a good bottle from either country, and you can probably find a better price from a South African version.
The Flavor Profiles to Expect:
When the grapes aren't very ripe, you get a dry Chenin Blanc. These are lighter in color and often have notes of pear, ginger and even chamomile. They can be a bit tart, though.
With riper grapes, you get a bit more sugar in the wine, which changes the flavor profile to off-dry. Stronger, riper pear flavors, jasmine, honeycomb and others, characterize this Chenin Blanc. It's also very aromatic.
Sweet Chenin Blanc comes from overly ripe grapes, or grapes that have even begun to mold. It's very rich for a white wine, and many people prefer this fruity drink as a dessert wine.
You can get all these flavor profiles as sparkling Chenin Blanc, too. It's delicious, and adding bubbles always makes things more exciting.
How to Pair Food With Chenin Blanc:
Chenin Blanc goes well with lighter meats, spices and vegetables. It's especially great with Asian foods that have a sweet and sour flavor profile. Though many white wines have a hard time standing up to heavier foods, Chenin Blanc can hold its own against turkey and Thanksgiving food. If you're unsure what kind of wine to drink at Thanksgiving (and seriously, is it a red meal or a white meal?), then go with Chenin Blanc.
Creamy cheeses like chevre, Brie, Gruyère and cream cheese are delicious with Chenin Blanc. You can add some spice to those cheeses for extra flavor excitement.