Monday, October 16, 2006

"C" is for Chenin Blanc

Talking about a white wine? So soon after gushing my enthusiasm about the start of red wine season?

Well, there were so many contenders for the "C" posting, I decided to go with what happened to be in my glass this past weekend.

One of my OCD behavioral tics is to really overthink wine and food pairings. I try not to write about pairing except in the loosest of terms, because it usually strikes me as a bit pretentious. And I'm not that great at it.

But that doesn't stop me from obsessing about it on my own time. Given my paltry wine selection at any given moment, I usually can't be as particular as I would like. There are, though, some things I can't compromise .

A favorite dish of mine is shrimp and pasta in a garlic-white wine sauce. Actually, calling it a sauce is a bit of over-promotion. It's just butter, olive oil, basil, garlic and white wine reduced a little and poured over pasta and shrimp. Simple, but tasty.

A dish likes this makes me wonder how in touch people who only drink red wine are with reality. This is food that should NEVER be consumed with red wine. Even in the depths of the brutal, bone-chilling South Carolina winter, I will NEVER drink red with this dish.

Okay...I'm feeling better now.

So, anyway, I popped open a bottle of 2003 Vinum Cellars CNW Cuvee. This was a clearance find at Green's and just $7.99. Perhaps the older vintage scared people off, but it's just as likely that this lovely chenin blanc just went unnoticed.

The "CNW" stands for Chard-No-Way! This is 100% chenin blanc and 100% good. Vinum champions less-than-popular varietals, like chenin blanc, cabernet franc (another contender for the "C" posting) and gewurztraminer. Their Web site is definitely worth a look.

Other than the fact it was delicious, the CNW impressed me that after several years in the bottle, it was still drinking wonderfully. I've always read that good chenin blanc ages gracefully and here was my proof.

It was a great match for my shrimp and pasta (although my favorite with this dish is a nice Mâcon or similar white Burgundy). It makes me glad I've got two more bottles.

It also makes me glad that I'm seeing more chenin blanc on the shelves at my favorite wine stores. One phenomenal value I've noticed is KWV Steen. Steen is what they call chenin blanc in South Africa. This is an awesome value and a fresh, clean, simple version of chenin. South Africa produces quite a bit of chenin blanc. They even have a cool Web site.

Undoubtedly, the Loire Valley is home to the finest chenin blancs in the world, but I’ve had a hard time finding good ones locally. And when I do find them, the price is a bit much for a poor, working stiff like myself.

Something I will spring for is a nice bottle of Crémant de Loire, which is the lovely and enticing sparkling wine of the Loire and made from, not surprisingly, mostly chenin blanc.

I’ve always got money for something bubbly.

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