Excellent Chenin, naturally

Every time I enjoy another excellent Chenin Blanc, I smack my forehead and ask myself, “Why don’t I do this more often?” And yet, here we are.

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Chenin Blanc might be my favorite white wine grape, if I ever stopped long enough to think about it seriously. Chenin is so good, so versatile, and so, so overlooked.

“Chenin Blanc may well be the most underrated white wine grape in the world,” the respected British wine writer Jancis Robinson wrote in “Chenin – a transhemispherical marvel,” a free article on her mostly paywalled JancisRobinson.com website. “It makes wines high in acidity that generally take a while to unfurl and show their mettle. But with time in bottle the wines can hold their own with the finest white wines in the world and, crucially, continue to improve for decades – a real sign of quality.”

I rarely open a Chenin Blanc that doesn’t support Robinson’s praise. In recent months alone I’ve celebrated the pleasures of Florent Cosme 2022 “Gross Pierre” Vouvray Sec (Feb. 23, 2024 Wine Advisor), and today’s featured wine, Lena Filliatreau 2022 Saumur.

"Far from being a commercial choice," Domaine Filliatreau says of its decision to convert all its vineyards to organic and biodynamic agriculture, "this way of producing wine is, above all, based on the desire to respect nature and to create a lasting connection to the land."

“Far from being a commercial choice,” Domaine Filliatreau says of its decision to convert all its vineyards to organic and biodynamic agriculture, “this way of producing wine is, above all, based on the desire to respect nature and to create a lasting connection to the land.”

Why is Chenin Blanc so lightly regarded? It’s hard to be certain, but I resonated with Wine Spectator writer Matt Kramer’s thoughts in his 2016 column, Is Chenin Blanc the Great Forgotten Grape?

“Why has Chenin Blanc been so … overlooked? You may have a better theory, but I would submit that its very versatility has been its undoing,” Kramer wrote, adding that Chenin rules in France’s Loire valley, where it’s variously made as a dry wine, a sweet wine, an ageworthy wine, a wine for early enjoyment, and even a sparkling wine. What’s more, he warned, “Chenin Blanc quality in the Loire ranges from world benchmark to banal.”

Worldwide, Chenin Blanc enjoys a similarly mixed reputation. Beyond the Loire, it’s historical and popular in South Africa, but much of that output stays home. Chenin is big enough in the U.S. that it recently ranked as California’s third most-planted grape; but that’s a little misleading as much of it is industrially grown and destined for an anonymous role in cheap jug wines.

California does make some stunning examples, particularly in the Sacramento River delta around Clarksburg, but they’re not always easy to find. That’s true as well for Australia, New Zealand, and other wine-growing countries around the world, where delicious Chenin Blanc can be made but is often well hidden from the thirsty traveler.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been having particularly good luck finding worthy Chenin Blanc on the natural, organic, and biodynamic shelves. Here’s my report on this week’s Chenin, an impressive and relatively affordable example from Saumur in the Loire Valley.


Today’s Tasting Report

Lena Filliatreau 2022 Saumur ($19.99)

Lena Filliatreau 2022 Saumur

Organic and biodynamic and widely available for less than $20, Lena Filliatreau Saumur is one of the best value Loire Chenin Blancs I’ve enjoyed in a while. Clear gold in color, it breathes delicious scents of honeydew melon, clover honey, white flowers, and complex citrus notes of lemon, lime, and lime zest. All that fruit comes together in a rich, full-bodied flavor (14% alcohol) that’s dry but so textured that it almost seems as sweet as ripe, juicy fruit. Made in stainless steel without a touch of oak, it’s bright and appetizing, with a touch of stony minerality in a long finish. U.S. importer: LDM Wines Inc., NYC. (March 27, 2024)

FOOD MATCH: Chenin Blanc is versatile and food-friendly. The producer suggests pairing it with seafood, fish, and cheeses. We enjoyed it with several vegetable dishes: Roasted cauliflower, chilled asparagus in an oil-and-lemon vinaigrette, and a fiery Nepalese-style dal tadka.

WHEN TO DRINK: Although Chenin Blanc in general can benefit from cellar time, the producer advises drinking this wine “in its youth.” I’d compromise by suggesting that you enjoy it within three or four years of the vintage. If you cellar one longer, please let me know how it goes!

This excellent Loire Chenin Blanc is well worth Wine-Searcher.com’s $18 average U.S. retail and even my local $20 price.

Domaine Filliatreau’s web page is available in French and English. Here’s the English-language info page for the Saumur.

Check prices and find vendors for Lena Filliatreau Saumur on Wine-Searcher.com.

Read about the white wines of Saumur and find links to other Chenin Blanc wines of the region at this Wine-Searcher link,

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to read more about Chenin Blanc and find links to other good wines of this variety.


Find the wines you want

Explore Wine-Searcher

Wine-Searcher.com is the place to go online if you want to find where to buy a particular wine that interests you. What’s more, Wine-Searcher.com offers so much more. It’s well worth a visit just to discover its many features, including its popular list of the world’s Top 10 Best Value Wines.


Good wines we’ve tried under $10.99!

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10.99 or less that I’ve told you about in recent years. In some cases the prices may have risen over the $10.99 mark since I reviewed them, but they should still be excellent bargains. Please tell us about your favorites!


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