Chenin Blanc is the chameleon of the white wine world. There are 4 common styles of Chenin Blanc; sparkling (both dry and sweet), off-dry/demi-sec, light and fruity, and full-bodied. Each of these wine styles matches with different types of food. There is always a Chenin Blanc food pairing with whatever you’re cooking and eating.
Sparkling Chenin Blanc will pair well with fried salty foods, sweeter styles of Chenin Blanc will pair well with spicy food, fruity dry styles of Chenin match with light fare like poultry and vegetables, and full-bodied oaked Chenin Blanc can even match with steak! Chenin Blanc is a French grape that exploded in popularity in the new world, specifically South Africa. Not only are the styles varied, so is the name; Chenin Blanc is called Steen in there. Read on to find the right Chenin Blanc food pairing for your next meal.
You will learn:
- The 4 styles of Chenin Blanc
- Flavor Profile of Chenin Blanc
- Sparkling Chenin Blanc pairing tips (dry and sweet)
- Dry and fruity Chenin Blanc food pairing
- Full-bodied Chenin Blanc food matches
- Sweet or demi-sec Chenin Blanc pairing guide
The 4 Styles of Chenin Blanc
When making a Chenin Blanc food pairing, you must consider the flavor profile of each style. The reason Chenin Blanc can make wine on such a wide spectrum is because Chenin is natural very high in acidity. Generally speaking, wines with high acidity make the best wines to pair with food. Acidity is necessary in the production of quality sparkling wine as well as a major factor to balance out sweetness in sweet or dessert wines. Chenin Blanc has tropical aromas of pineapple and mango on the nose, and citrusy lemon notes and quince paste on the palate. Chenin Blanc can be light to full-bodied depending on the production method. And as mentioned, Chenin Blanc can be bone dry to very sweet, still and sparkling.
1. Sparkling (dry and sweet)
Chenin Blanc can be made into dry sparkling wines as well as sweet sparkling wines. This depends on the ripeness of the grapes at harvest as well as the style the winemaker is trying to achieve. Brut or Sec on a label will tell you the sparkling is dry. Demi-sec of moelleux are the words that indicate sweetness. The best examples of dry styles of sparkling Chenin Blanc come from South Africa where sparkling is called MCC, or Methode Cap Classique. MCC sparkling wines are made in the traditional method of sparkling wine where the second fermentation occurs in the bottle.
For demi-sec of sweet styles of sparkling Chenin Blanc, look to the Loire Valley, or specifically to Vouvray. Sparkling wine from the Loire Valley is called Cremant d’Loire and is dominantly made of Chenin Blanc, though if it is from grapes grown exclusively in Vouvray it will be labeled as such.
Sparkling Chenin Blanc Food Pairing
In general, sparkling wine is a great food match because of the high acidity that cuts through rich dishes, as well as the effervescence that cleanses the palate. As you can imagine, dry styles and sweet styles of sparkling will pair best with different foods.
Dry Styles of Sparkling Chenin Blanc Food Pairing
Dry sparkling Chenin is high in acid, aromatic, and has tight bubbles. Pair dry sparkling Chenin with foods that are fried, fatty, rich, or robust.
- Fried chicken
- Pork belly
- French fries
- Bacon and eggs
- Smoked Salmon
Demi-Sec/Sweet Styles of Sparkling Chenin Blanc Food
This is where spicy food really shines! Demi-sec sparkling Chenin Blanc pairs perfectly with savory dishes with lots of spice. The sweetness calms down the heat of the spicy food and makes for a very harmonious pairing. Demi-sec or sweet styles of sparkling Chenin Blanc also pair well with desserts or sweet foods. The wine you drink should always be sweeter than the food you eat, otherwise the wine will taste bitter. I prefer these wines with fruit based desserts because of the match between the acidity of the fruit and the acidity of the wine. Get more food and wine pairing tips here.
- Thai green curry
- Chicken Vindaloo
- Spicy Mexican food
- Jalapeno poppers
- Sweet and sour pork
- Chocolate-covered strawberries
- Cheesecake with cherry topping
- Fruit tarts
- Angel food cake with pineapple
2. Light, Bright, Dry, and Fruity
Chenin Blanc that is dry and fruity is made in South Africa, California, Australia, and of course bottles of Vouvray labeled sec. Chenin Blanc is known as Steen in South Africa. These wines will be very fruity and floral. While the acidity is still high, these dry still styles are delicate and make a better match with foods that are as well.
Dry Chenin Blanc Food Pairing
- Grilled chicken
- Fresh summer salads
- Shrimp and fish tacos with lots of lime juice
- Oysters, scallops, clams
- Avocado toast
3. Full-bodied & Oaked
Oak aged Chenin Blanc will remind you a bit of California Chardonnay and pairs with similar foods. Unsurprisingly, oaked Chenin can be found in California as well. Though, I find the best full-bodied Chenin Blanc comes from South Africa. The oak adds body and a creamy texture to the wine. Oaked Chenin Blanc can even hold its own matched with lean cuts of red meat and lamb.
Foods that pair with full-bodied Chenin Blanc
- Greek chicken with lemon potatoes
- Grilled lobster
- Surf and turf
- Pasta with cream sauce
- Lamb kebabs
- Seafood risotto or seafood pasta
4. Demi-sec/Sweet and Still
Chenin Blanc from Vouvray expresses itself gorgeously with a bit or a lot of sweetness. The mineral component and high acidity balance out the residual sugar. Grapes in Vouvray can experience Noble Rot, which dehydrates the grapes and leaves behind the sugars. Winemakers can also harvest Chenin Blanc late in the season when the grapes are extra ripe and at their sweetest. Demi-sec is halfway between dry and sweet. It can toe the line between sweet and savory dishes. Chenin Blanc that is fully sweet, or moelleux, will pair better with desserts or very rich dishes.
Savory dishes and desserts that pair with sweet Chenin Blanc
- Foie gras
- Blue cheese
- Roast duck
- Suckling pig
- Black forest cake
- Chocolate cake
- Apple pie
- Peach cobbler
- Pineapple upside-down cake
Drink Chenin Blanc Day is June 19, 2021
As you can see, there’s a Chenin Blanc for every meal and every cuisine. Try one on International Chenin Blanc Day AKA Drink Chenin Blanc Day. Check out this full list of wine holidays here. What’s your favorite Chenin Blanc food pairing? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments.