"Tastes great," shouts one group.
"Less filling," yells the other.
That ad came to mind recently while tasting six white wines made with Chenin Blanc grapes.
When it comes to low calorie wines, ones made with Chenin Blanc grapes have some of fewest calories around. A 5-ounce glass of Chenin Blanc wine has an average of 118 calories, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
But tasting these wines, I never felt like I was sacrificing anything when it comes to taste. Chardonnays and Rieslings might get all the glory when it comes to white wines. But Chenin Blancs can more than hold their own compared to other great white wines.
You can find great, Chenin Blanc wines from many difference places around the world. But I decided to focus on two wine regions known for producing some of the best Chenin Blancs - South Africa and France's Loire Valley. Best of all, the wines reviewed cost less than $13 a bottle. Let me add that I enjoyed every single one of them for many difference reasons.
SOUTH AFRICAN CHENIN BLANC WINES
2015 Petit Chenin Blanc Ken Forrester Wines Stellenbosch ($7.99 at Table & Vine in West Springfield)
2016 MAN Family Wines Free-run Steen Chenin Blanc Coastal Region ($7.99 at Table & Vine)
2015 Ken Forrester Vineyards Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch ($11.99 at Table & Vine)
FRENCH LOIRE VALLEY CHENIN BLANC WINES
2015 Les Pouches Saumur ($11.99 at Table & Vine)
2015 Barton & Guestier Vouvray Chenin Blanc ($12.99 at Table & Vine)
2015 Les Aumones Vouvray Domaine Le Capitaine ($11.99 at Table & Vine)
HISTORY OF CHENIN BLANC
Wines made with Chenin Blanc grapes have been around since the 1400s in France's Loire Valley, according to the book, "Wine Grapes" by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and Jose Vouillamoz. The name of the grape likely came from a monastery in France named Montchenin in the Touraine region of France's Loire Valley.
BEST CHENIN BLANC WINE REGIONS
When it comes to Chenin Blanc, France's Loire Valley remains one of the best known regions for good reason. Wines from here made with Chenin Blanc grapes taste absolutely delicious. In the Loire Valley alone, there are several smaller regions famous for making fantastic Chenin Blanc wines, including:
Vouvray | Saumur | Anjou
Outside France's Loire Valley, other popular Chenin Blanc wine growing regions include:
- South Africa (including Stellenbosch and Swartland regions)
- California (including Central Valley)
CHENIN BLANC & SPARKLING WINE
Chenin Blanc might be best known for making fragrant, dry white wines. But this versatile grape also serves as basis for many sparkling wines, especially a particular type of sparkling wine named "Cremant," which is French for creamy. Outside of France's Champagne region, the Loire Valley is the largest producer of sparkling wine. And many sparkling wines from the Loire Valley are Cremants, which are often made mostly using Chenin Blanc grapes.
TASTING NOTES - SOUTH AFRICAN CHENIN BLANC WINES
2015 Petit Chenin Blanc Ken Forrester Wines Stellenbosch - If someone had asked me to identify this crisp, refreshing wine blindfolded, I probably would have spilled the wine all over myself, then guessed it was a grassy, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
I love the fresh, young, slightly apple taste of this wine. My wife and I both said we could easily picture this wine being a perfect, summer wine. But why wait? We had this wine with cheese, crackers and salad and it tasted great with all of them. And you can't beat the price!
2016 MAN Family Wines Free-run Steen Chenin Blanc Coastal Region - If you like your wines more on the mild side, this mellow, easy-drinking wine's the one for you. It definitely doesn't have a grassy taste like the Petit Chenin Blanc. This one tastes more like a toned-down, Chardonnay.
Initially, I was not crazy about this wine. Compared to the other five wines tasted for this review, this one seemed to have the least character of them all. But on its own, this wine shined. Having a small glass the other day, I thoroughly enjoyed the wine's crisp, subtle, mild flavors, which are flinty yet slightly floral.
2015 Ken Forrester Vineyards Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch - A truly delightful, refreshing wine from the "King of Chenin," the nickname often used for Ken Forrester, the former restaurateur who founded this winery in 1994.
Recently purchased by a French corporation, this winery knows how to produce unique, interesting Chenin Blancs. This one in particular tastes a bit like a combination of the two wines reviewed above - slightly grassy, but not overpowering. A real gem.
TASTING NOTES - FRENCH LOIRE VALLEY CHENIN BLANC WINES
2015 Les Pouches Saumur - A truly interesting, fascinating wine from one of the Loire Valley's lesser-known wine regions, Saumur. This wine was made from grapes grown on 45-year-old vines and such maturity shows.
The flavors are a pleasant blend of grass, minerals and a slight chalkiness you often find with wines grown in limestone-rich soil. The wine also has a slight fruitiness but not too much. This wine shows why the Loire Valley's so famous for its delicious Chenin Blancs.
2015 Barton & Guestier Vouvray Chenin Blanc - Vouvray has long been one of my favorite French wine regions. When I first reviewed this wine this past August, I wrote that this wine "had a slight buttery flavor which lingered on the tip of my tongue much longer than the other wines. But the crispness that was evident in the other Vouvrays I tasted could also be found here as well."
This time, I found myself drawn to the wine's mild, mineral-like flavors along with a touch of green apples. I also feel like this wine tastes almost Chardonnay like at times. All of which is a long way of saying this wine will likely keep you thorouhgly interested from one sip to the next.
2015 Les Aumones Vouvray Domaine Le Capitaine - Another stunning Vouvray, I first reviewed this wine back in August as well. Back then, I wrote that this wine "is another great bargain at just under $12 a bottle. This crisp, clean tasting wine also had a long, luscious aftertaste."
This time, I loved this wine even more. A complex blend of floral flavors with a hint of minerality, this smooth, complex wine was my favorite one of the tasting. I found myself returning to it again and again over the course of two days and each time being truly smitten.
Wine Press by Ken Ross appears on Masslive.com every Monday and in The Republican's weekend section every Thursday.
Writer's Note: This is the 2nd of 3 articles about low calorie wines. Last week's wine column was about low calorie red wines.