Chenin Blanc is one of the most undervalued grape varieties, one that delivers wines of high quality to price ratios. It is a variety that originated in France's Loire Valley. a crossing of Sauvignon Blanc and Savagnin (a grape also grown in Jura). It is a grape suitable for cooler climates, producing wines of higher acidity, yet ripe and well fruited. The best-known Chenin Blancs are those of Vouvray which is situated east of Tours on the Loire river. although significant plantings are located in Montlouis (across the river from Vouvray) and Coteaux du Layon. South Africa grows much Chenin Blanc, introduced by French Huguenots. In Washington State, much Chenin Blanc was planted in the 1970's, but the popularity waned as demand for Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc increased.

In Washington State, especially in the Yakima Valley, the microclimates in cooler sites mirror those of the Loire Valley, making Chenin Blanc a highly suitable white grape. The alluvial and flood minerals also add to the wines' characteristics. There are not many practitioners of Chenin Blanc in Washington. Here are ones that make Chenin Blanc on a regular basis.

L'Ecole No 41 - This winery started producing a Chenin Blanc in the early 'eighties to emulate the Vouvrays that were cherished by co-founder Jean Ferguson. At $18 a bottle, it is a bargain. See the May 2022 issue of the Review of Washington Wines for the 2021 (18.5/20 points). The 2022 vintage will be reviewed in June.

Orr Wines - Erica Orr is a strong advocate of Chenin Blanc. The 2021 from the Gresswell Vineyard scored 19.5/20 points, the highest for any Washington Chenin Blanc reviewed so far. The 2022 Old Vine bottling will be reviewed in the May issue.

Efeste - This Woodinville winery's "Adrienne" bottling is always an exemplary Chenin Blanc. The 2022 from the Columbia Crest Vineyard scored 19/20 points in the April issue.

Convergence Zone - Scott Greenberg's winery in North Bend produces attractive "Sunbreak" Chenin Blancs from the Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain, an ideal high elevation site. The 2022 vintage will be reviewed in the May issue.

Loire Valley Chenin Blancs

Here are some Chenin Blancs we've tasted recently.

2021 Bernard Fouquet Vouvray, "Cuvée de Silex" ($24.90 - Foodscape, Walla Walla) - This features a brilliant lemon-gold color and floral aromasmof pear, white peach, grapefruit, pear blossoms, jasmine, meadow flowers, clover and white incense. The flavors are bright and vibrant, with yellow fruits that are accented by grape and pear skins and silicate minerals. The back picks up poire and pêche liqueurs and hazelnuts, followed by a juicy fruit acid finish. 18.5/20 points.

2021 Champalou Vouvray ($25 - The Thief, Walla Walla) - Brilliant gold colored, this possesses a brilliant gold color and a floral nose of pear, nectarine, grapefruit, pear blossoms, wisteria, jasmine, clover and whiffs of spiced white incense. The flavors, aa well, are appealing, with white fruits that are imbued with grape and pear skins, nectarine stones and riverside minerals. The vibrancy continues on the back with pear and peach liqueurs and touches of hazelnut and crème fraice, followed by s crisp, finely fruited finish. 18.5/20 points.

Domaine Huet is one of the best producers of Vouvray with regular and single vineyard bottlings ranging from dry (Sec) to sweet (Molleux). The wines are well fruited, persistently minerally, with superb balance. They age well.

2019 Domaine Huet Vouvray Sec, Clos du Bourg ($47 - The Thief) - This exhibits a brilliant lemon-gold color and perfumed aromas of Asian pear-apple, golden peach, honeydew melon. grapefruit, apple blossoms, sweet pea flowers, clover and yellow incense. The flavors are well extracted, with yellow fruits dancing on the palate, with yellow fruits that are accented by grape and pear skins, peach stones and limestone minerals. On the back, the wine takes a vigorous turn with poire and pêche liqueurs, melon rind and grapefruit peel, followed by a lingering, faintly honeyed yet dry, persistently minerally finish. 19+/20 points.

With finely fruited, high acid wines, the Loire Valley is also especially suited for making sparkling wines from Chenin Blanc. Here is one from across the river from Vouvray.

N.V. La Taille aux Loups Montlouis sur Loire Brut Traditionnel ($34.90 - Foodscape) - This displays a brilliant gold color, streaming beads and perfumed aromas of Anjou pear, white peach, cantaloupe, grapefruit, pear blossoms, sweet pea flowers, clover and white incense. The flavors are bright and brisk, marked by grape and pear skins, peach stones and chalky minerals. On the back, the wine invigorates with poire and pêche liqueurs, CO2 and touches of nougat and lees on the way to a fairly honeyed yet true Brut finish. 19/20 points.

So what makes Chenin Blanc ideal for spring and summer? It's the freshness and bright fruit acidity that makes them a joy to drink, especially with the fruits and vegetables and spring chicken and seafood of the season.