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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Wine

A Grape That Could Use Some (Tough) Love: Chenin Blanc

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I have enormous respect for Chenin Blanc, but this is one grape that definitely needs to spend some time in a military academy. Left to its own devices, after a few years Chenin vines sprawl out, get all broad and flabby, and start overproducing like the Octomom. But with a little firm discipline (shoot- and cluster-thinning, which is vineyard-manager-speak for “drop and give me twenty, dogface!”) suddenly they're a source for crisp, complex—and underrated—white wines. Here are five that have been whipped into shape:

2011 Indaba Chenin Blanc ($10) Sales of Indaba’s wines support a fellowship for needy South African students interested in wine-related careers. Like growing more Chenin Blanc, because the place does it so darn well, for instance.

2010 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc ($12) This peachy wine comes from Clarksburg, in California’s Sacramento River delta. No oak here, just zippy stainless-steel-tank freshness.

2010 Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc ($13) More peach notes—it’s sort of a Chenin signature—and a nice hint of spice, from one of South Africa’s top wineries. Plus, how can you not love a place that also makes a wine called “Faithful Hound”?

2010 Pine Ridge Vineyards Chenin Blanc-Viognier ($14) The Pine Ridge folks add about 20% Viognier—another grape that tends towards sloth and dissolution unless you give it what-for—to this melony Chenin, giving it a nice floral note.

2009 Domaine Huet Le Haut Lieu Sec Vouvray ($30, more or less) “Sec” means dry, important to know with Vouvray, since many of the Chenins from this French region can be sweet. “Domaine Huet” means “I make the best damn Chenin Blanc on the planet,” basically. It’s a splurge, but once you’ve fallen in love with this grape, it’s one you’ll want to make.

Related Links:
Top 10 No-Fail Tips for Picking a Stellar Wine off a Wine List
15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairing

Entertaining

Wines for a Hot Summer Wedding

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Courtesy of Louis/Dressner Selections


Courtesy of Louis/Dressner Selections

On a hot, dewy day in Brooklyn earlier this month, I married my extraordinarily lovely wife, Liz. In what seems to be turning into a Food & Wine tradition, I thought I'd write up the bottles we served at the reception.
 

 

 

 

2009 Vittorio Bera & Figli Arcese ($15)
Before we'd even picked a menu, Liz and I were dead-set on this Italian white—just because we really like it. It's a little of a lot of things: peachy, salty, effervescent, and there's a touch of pleasing funk that mingles with a floral scent on the nose. On top of all that, it has a satisfying crispness that makes it great with food.
 
2010 Domaine de Pajot Les Quatre Cépages ($10)
We thought this southern French blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Gros Manseng, Ugni Blanc and Colombard would be a safe crowd-pleaser. It's straightforward, with apricot and zippy lime flavors, but also delicious (as well as quenching and thoroughly gulpable).
 
2010 Thierry Puzelat Le Tel Quel ($17)
This wine, from a brilliant Loire Valley winemaker, beat out a gorgeous Côtes-du-Rhône by Marcel Richaud, a brilliant Rhône winemaker. Puzelat's bottle won for one reason: We could serve it cool. Did I mention that this was New York City in July? A light chill seemed to focus this Gamay's intense raspberry flavor.
 
We'd been just a bit worried that guests wouldn't go for a chilled red or the slightly oddball Arcese, but they turned out to be big hits. Lesson: Pour what you love.

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