Chenin Blanc – Versatile and affordable

Tim's Wine Market

The Sunday night meal is special to me.  My wife and I work really hard to only serve fresh veggies and homemade meals every night but Sunday night is where I take a little longer to stretch out my culinary chops and it usually involves a little more wine than weeknight meals.  Tonight I finished a meal that started Thursday night when 8 pork loin chops went for a 12 hour bath in my favorite brine.  At 7 am then went into the smoker for a maple smoke treatment and by 10 am they were as succulent a piece of meat as you could want.   Sunday night they became the main event along with roasted acorn squash and peas with shallots.  The hard question is what wine.This is a tough meal to pair to.  The meat has a sweet overtone with a subtle woodsmoke note; the acorn squash is earthy and sweet and the peas?  A little heaven with sweet shallots a hint of the pork as I cooked them in the skillet after reheating the meat.   My choice?  Chenin Blanc.  I went into this one blind not knowing how sweet the wine would be.  Sitting here two hours later my only comment is, Bingo!My choice is a version from Mulderbosch called Small Change.  I like their normal bottling, which shows the lean, citrus/apple side of Chenin but this one is far deeper and more serious.  I am not even sure it is sold in the US, it was sent to me a year ago as a thank you for picking their 2005 Chardonnay as a Wine-of-the-Month club selection.So here is the fast story on Chenin Blanc from South Africa.  The grape is originally from the Central Loire Valley of France.  Since WWII most of the wines have come from large, factory/wineries and so there have been very few good examples for years.  (With the re-emergence of family wineries in France we are starting to see a lot of good examples again, but most are around $20 a bottle.)  Versions from South Africa are typically cheaper and to be honest, just as soulful.  For this reason we sell more and more each month.  The good ones, meaning more than $12 a bottle, are usually dry with less body than Chardonnay but more than Sauvignon Blanc.In the case of this wine the nose shows a complex blend of dried apples, lemon juice, cold stone and the tell-tale Chenin quality of wet wool.  If you don’t think that sounds interesting you need to buy a bottle of one and try it, you will be surprised.  The feel in the mouth is medium weight with the fruit showing laser beam intensity into the finish, which is not real long.  This wine will age longer than I waited but it showed great now, so if you have one, don’t be afraid to drink up.