As white wines go, Chenin Blanc is a versatile varietal. It can be a dry or sweet still and a bottle of sparkling wine. The winemaker’s style is part of the reason for its assortment of flavor profiles.
Fresh, dry Chenin Blanc grapes that are fermented produce wine with a flavor profile of:
A more full-bodied flavor profile emerges when you leave sugars in the grapes during winemaking, producing wine with a flavor profile of:
- passion fruit
Sweeter versions of Chenin Blanc wines offer flavor profiles of:
- toasted almond
Can you get sparkling Chenin Blanc?
Chenin Blanc has a light to medium body. Sparkling styles that are classified as sweet, or demi-sec, all the way to dry (also known as Brut), typically have Chenin Blanc’s classic flavor characteristics of:
- apple blossom
In the cool climate of Loire Valley, California, a major Chenin Blanc producer, the grapes are capricious in how they ripen. As a result, sparkling wine is created using unripened harvested grapes.
Are there any sparkling wines that are made from Chenin Blanc?
The classic Vouvray, available in the dominant sparkling or still form, is made from Chenin Blanc grapes grown in the Loire region of France. Vouvray is a full sparkling Chenin Blanc made using the same method as Champagne.
Even a full sparkling Vouvray wine is only slightly bubbly. You can find Brut to demi-sec wines under the label of ‘Mousseaux’ or ‘Methode Tradionelle.’
What if I want to make my own sparkling Chenin Blanc?
There are several methods to consider when making sparkling wine. To create a sparkling Chenin Blanc, you are looking for Chenin Blanc grapes, also named Steen and Pineau de la Loire.
Regionally, the grape is called Vouvray, Quarts de Chaume, Bonnezeaux, and Savennières in France.
Methode Champenoise is the traditional French method of making sparkling Chenin Blanc. Winemakers believe this method produces the highest quality of sparkling wine.
Traditionalists select a base wine to begin the process. Your base wine is a still wine like Chardonnay. This wine is a smart choice, as it is dry and not overly acidic.
The wine needs to additionally ferment on a wine rack until stabilized. If properly done, the taste should be crisp, and there shouldn’t be any off-putting pungency.
Next is a labor-intensive process of riddling the wine. This process inverts the sparkling wine by twisting the bottle back and forth.
Before you begin, ensure that your wine is clear. In this step, sediment loosens from the bottom and sides of the bottle. It collects in the bottle’s neck to prepare for disgorgement.
Arguably the most crucial step in the sparkling winemaking process, disgorgement eliminates the sediment deposits in the bottleneck during riddling. Chill the wine after preparing a topping of wine and sugar, known as the dosage.
Next, take the inverted bottle of wine, and place it in the freezer.
Do not completely freeze the bottle! Instead, check for ice crystals forming in the bottleneck, showing the wine is close to freezing. Once you see ice crystals formed, the wine is ready to be disgorged or discharged.
Slowly remove the bottle cap, so the pressure built up forces the sediment out. Then top the wine with the dosage, topping wine and sugar mixture, and re-cork the bottle.
If you’re starting your winemaking endeavors at home, The Charmat Method, also referred to as the “more affordable method,” may be the best place to start. The latter method uses a tank to ferment the wine.
Contemporaries using the Charmat Method select a stainless steel tank. Put your still wine in the tank to undergo a second fermentation. Next, add a mixture of yeast and sugar, called triage.
This additive causes the second fermenting, requiring three to twelve months. Finally, the wine is ready for the next step when bubbles appear. Add the dosage mixture at this stage if you want to produce a sweeter wine.
When finishing this method, you will bottle the wine under pressure. The Charmat Method creates fruitier notes and is quicker than the traditional method.
The flavors of your finished wine depend on your experience and will. Your finished wine product should have the flavor profile of:
- passion fruit
- apple blossom
Store the bottle in a cool, dry place and chill before serving. Producing sparkling wine takes up to nine months to finish. If this is for a special occasion, factor this timeline into your plans.
Final Thoughts on Chenin Blanc’s Varieties
Chenin Blanc is a highly versatile grape originating from the French Loire Valley. Therefore its varieties are not limited.
In addition, there are both still and sparkling Chenin Blancs and various dessert wines made with this type of grape. Chenin Blanc is often used in wine blends due to its unique taste, and it works well with oak-aged styles.