Vin de France & Grape Varieties


Encyclopedia of French Grape Varieties

{ White Wine }


Chenin originally comes from the banks of the Loire in central France, near Angers.

Chenin is renowned for its mineral notes of chalk and flint, commonly encountered in the river valleys of central France. More generally, it features pear and ripe quince aromas when young, backed by hints of acacia honey, candied fruit and lemon. Sometimes, spicy notes of ginger or lime blossom can also be detected.

Wines produced
Depending on growing conditions and terroir (limestone or schist), this variety can be used to make either sparkling wines or dry wines, as well as sweet wines. Its potential acidity is always high, however, and its wines are always elegant and generally quite lively. It also has good potential for ageing, namely thanks to its prominent acid.

Areas planted
In France, Chenin is planted mainly along the banks of the Loire, primarily near Angers and Tours. More recently, it has been introduced into the southwestern Mediterranean region, but the surface areas are still very small. The surface area in France planted with Chenin has remained stable since 1979, with nearly 10,000 hectares grown.

Budding and ripening
Chenin is a relatively early-budding variety, as it buds one day ahead of Chasselas, the benchmark. Nonetheless, it is a relatively late ripener, requiring 3 to 3 ½ weeks more than Chasselas to reach peak ripeness.

Highly vigorous, Chenin is also a fertile grape variety that can be extremely productive in very rich soils. If temperatures drop below freezing in springtime, however, the secondary buds will be less fertile.

Preferred soils
Chenin’s qualities are expressed in very different ways depending on the type of soil it is grown in. When grown in sand, it gives light, charming wines to be enjoyed young. Clays and clay-limestone soils give fuller bodied, more intense wines with a lot of volume, where as calcareous soils lend it a mineral touch with more acidity.

Ideal Climate
Chenin, like Chardonnay, is a rather versatile grape variety. Nonetheless, it prefers the cool areas at the northern border of the region where it is grown. This cool climate, found in areas such as the banks of the Loire, enables the variety to best express its personality.

Susceptibility to disease and pests
Chenin is particularly sensitive to gray mold, oidium and wood diseases (eutypiosis and esca). It has better resistance to mildew, black rot and anthracnose, however.

Chenin is used only to produce wine.

Distinctive features
Chenin can be recognized by its young shoots, which are densely covered with flat-lying hairs, as well as by its young leaves with bronze patches. Chenin’s adult leaves have three to five clearly distinguishable lobes, with a slightly open petiolar sinus, or with slightly overlapping lobes. On the lateral lobes, the teeth are medium-length, with convex sides, and the veins have a strong red anthocyanic pigment. The leaf blade is quite bubbled and its underside has a moderately dense coat of flat-lying hairs. Chenin’s clusters are medium to large in size, while its berries are small to medium-sized and round.

Clones marketed
The eight approved Chenin clones (specifically named Chenin B) are numbers 220, 278, 416, 417, 624, 880, 982 and 1018. Since 1996, more than 200 clones have been planted at a conservatory in the vineyard near Angers.

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