By Kat Freyaldenhoven
Here at Vino Distribution, we love a good underdog story. We consider Chenin Blanc to be the underdog grape making moves and competing for some much-needed recognition!
Our objective is to bring known, and not-so-well-known, hand-crafted, beautiful artisan wine into Arkansas for a great price. Our team at Vino Distribution was actually crazy enough to begin our entire distribution journey with Lubanzi–a South African Chenin Blanc!
We knew there would be growing pains when trying to cultivate the consumer’s desire for such an “obscure” varietal, but we were up for the challenge! Two years later, Lubanzi Chenin Blanc is sold at restaurants across Arkansas and is quickly becoming a fan-favorite among our consumers. We are constantly hearing, “wow… I don’t even like white wine, but I love this!” All it takes is a sip, and we are confident it will be your go-to white wine of choice!
So, what in the world is a Chenin Blanc and where does it come from anyway?
That was my first initial question when I began my wine journey a couple of years ago!
Chenin Blanc is a wonderfully complex and versatile grape found mainly in the Loire Valley of France or South Africa. Its limited notoriety allows you to get great quality varietal for a great price! (Who doesn’t love that?!)
I’ve often described Chenin Blanc as somewhere in between a Riesling and a Sauvignon Blanc. It’s not overly sweet by any means, but it does lend itself to beautiful, full-flavored fruit notes at first sip and still contains the fresh & citrusy characteristics with the beloved acidic-finish Sauvignon Blanc is known for.
So, if you are a Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, or Chardonnay drinker then, Chenin Blanc is right up your alley! And, for all of my red wine lovers out there who’ve given up on whites, Chenin Blanc is your redemption wine! I’m usually a very earthy red wine lover, and I’m surprised to say that I’m excited about a white wine again!
Chenin Blanc is known for its versatility because it’s capable of producing such a wide range of wines perfect for the ever-expanding palate. Chenin Blanc can be expressed as a blend, sparkling, fresh and fruity, or sweet and oaked, making it a great food pairing wine!
Our friend, Jane Lello, owner of the South African wine Stelle-Kaya, which is also insanely good, gave us her wonderful go-to chicken pieces recipe that she pairs with Chenin Blanc.
Recipe of chicken pieces: 1) Make a marinade of roasted garlic, pitted prunes and olives, olive oil, and capers. 2) Pour over chicken pieces and let the marinade sink in for 12/18 hours. 3) Then slow cook for 3 hours.
Flavors and Fun Facts
Below are some key characteristics that might help you wrap your mind, and palate, around this wonderful grape:
-Fresh, acidic, and citrusy.
-Flavors of lemon, pear, honey, lemon curd, ripe and tropical fruit flavors
-Flavor profile for more experienced wine drinkers: (not to sound snobby over here, but we just didn’t want any new wine adventurers to wonder why damp-straw would ever be a good idea. lol)
-Quince, wet wool, damp straw, and lemon curd
Fresh and Fruity Chenin Blanc, such as a Lubanzi, pairs beautifully with:
-Salads–especially those containing chicken, ham and cheese, and/or fresh fruit! Chenin Blanc jumps at the chance for a good fruit expression moment!
-Fresh vegetable dishes such as asparagus
-Fresh seafood! Especially oysters!
The crisp and natural acidity will cut through rich herbaceous dishes as well.
-Chenin Blanc’s complexity causes some to age beautifully for over a decade whereas most whites are best consumed within a year or two after bottling.
Why Lubanzi Chenin Blanc you ask?
Well, we chose to partner with Lubanzi South African Chenin Blanc for many reasons, but here are just a few of our favorites:
1. South Africa is known for its high and consistent yields. We trust Lubanzi to create a consistent, crisp beautiful wine vintage after vintage.
2. Lubanzi is 100% grown and hand-picked in South Africa’s famous Swartland region. It’s made using a blend of grapes that come from a diverse collection of Swartland soils, with each piece of land putting its own mark on the final product.
3. The diverse Swartland soil provides a variety of characteristics from the region, so we see it as a great expression of the grape and a great exploratory wine for that region.
4. Lastly, but certainly not least, the story and vision behind the wine: As two young travelers, Charlie Brain and Walker, were led by a dog, Lubanzi, across South Africa’s wild coast, they fell in love with South Africa and desired to grow the future of the families living and working on South Africa’s wine farms. In fact, Lubanzi, named after their dog, gives 50% of their annual profit back to the hands that made it through The Pebble Project, and they also provide healthcare and education for the children on these wineries. So, we feel great about selling it and you can feel even greater about drinking it! No better way to purchase with a purpose!
We hope you enjoy venturing out into “obscure” grapes as much as we do!
-Vino Distribution Team.