On a recent dinner out with my husband, I ordered a bottle of Savennières – a Chenin Blanc-based white from the Loire – that had long been a favorite of mine. I told him, in a way that came out sounding like it was a guilty secret, that I really love Savennières.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s not just Savennières that I love. It’s Chenin Blanc wines from the many Loire Valley appellations that use Chenin as the sole grape. And—they’re all so different. I was reminded of the episode of The Simpsons when Lisa turns vegetarian. Homer, incredulous, asks, “Lisa, honey, are you saying you’re never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon? Ham? Pork chops??” Lisa rolls her eyes, retorting that those all “come from the same animal,” and it’s Homer’s response that’s the kicker: “Yeah, right,” he says, “a wonderful, magical animal…”
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Chenin Blanc is that magical animal of the wine world. Depending on the soil and micro-climate in which it’s grown (and give or take certain whims on the part of the winemaker), its expression is as varied as they come. Some versions are austere and mineral, like a Loire counterpart to dry German Riesling. Some are funky-fresh and fruity. Still other styles can be rich, honeyed, exotic, and layered. Yet, they’re all essentially made from the same stuff. These wines tickle the same pleasure zones as Homer’s favorite pork products. But as much as I crave the decadent savoriness of bacon, I crave the punchy fruit of Chenin-based glou even more.