In its home in France, it is responsible for everything from light and refreshing charmers, to some of the longest lived dessert wines. As a sparkling wine, it provides both quality and value. We tried drier versions of chenin blanc from around the globe, with those from the United States edging out the competition. Here are the panel's top picks:
2008 Dry Creek Chenin Blanc, $9.99
This wine sees no oak and is finished bone-dry, resulting in a marvelously refreshing white. Bright citrus--lemon, lime and grapefruit--dominates the nose along with subtle hazelnut and a light hit of whipped butter. It's lively, creamy citrus on the palate, rich but with balancing acidity and touches of peach and mango. A California mainstay since 1972, this one has always been a value-priced charmer.
2008 L'Ecole No. 41 "Walla Voila" Chenin Blanc, $11.99
An exceptional effort from this Walla Walla, Wash., winery. It could pass for a French vouvray with its classic hit of black walnut backing ripe apricot and melon on the nose. It's definitely on the richer side with unctuous peach, papaya and mango playing against sweet citrus that turns tangy on the finish.
2008 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier, $14.99
A bit of a ringer from Napa Valley, with a blend that includes 19 percent viognier. That grape definitely comes through on the nose, adding honeysuckle and sweet stone fruit to the tangy citrus. On the palate, you'll find ripe honeydew melon balanced by tangy lemon and blood orange. The finish is long and lively with a nicely balanced mix of tropical fruit and cleansing acidity.
This Week's Panel: David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op Wine Shop; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Young's Market; Kevin Settles, Bardenay; Scott Sprague, Idaho Wine Merchant