Why Chenin Blanc Is Your Food and Wine Pairing Bestie


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You can find a lot of articles on the Web purporting to unlock the mysteries of wine and food pairing, and many of them do offer helpful insight. But as Eric Asimov put it in the New York Times, “The truth is that experience is the only surefire method for feeling more at ease with wine and food. To learn how to ski, you must set off down the mountain and not be afraid to fall. And falls happen, even with the experts.”

If that sounds a little scary, not to worry; Chenin Blanc is the wine that can keep you – and your wine and food pairings – from crashing!

It’s not that Chenin Blanc goes with absolutely everything, but among the grape’s many strong suits is its spectacular flexibility. This is especially true when Chenin is made in the energetic, full-flavored style of the protea Chenin Blanc.

Vibrant, tart gooseberry, plum and lime aromas are upfront on the bouquet, with additional hints of sweet grass and honeysuckle dancing in the background. The palate offers bright acidity and crisp citrus flavors.

That’s how Lauren Buzzeo described the protea in a recent Wine Enthusiast magazine review, and that’s the type of wine that can bring a spark to a wide range of dishes. We don’t have any wine and food pairing rules for you, but we have a lot of experience pairing Chenin Blanc, and we know what we like. Here are some our faves, which we hope will help inspire your explorations!

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Start with that dish we offered up a few months ago: Spicy Vietnamese Wings. It was for a Super Bowl party, but we liked it so much we made it for book club a few weeks later, too. The wine’s array of fruit aromas and flavors are a lovely complement to the sweet-and-spicy character of the dish.

In a similar vein, we’ve found Chenin Blanc pairs up nicely with Thai Green Chicken Curry (pictured at top) that’s not too hot – as in this simple recipe from Bon Appétit.

For seafood pairings, the possibilities are boundless as the oceans, but a direction we like to go is with firm and lean white fish, like Alaska pollock, catfish, grouper, haddock, Pacific cod or halibut, or swordfish. The protea Chenin Blanc particularly complements the clean flavor and texture of fish off the grill and with a fresh, zesty accompaniment. With that in mind, try it with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Grilled Halibut with Mango-Avocado Salsa (pictured above).

For those going the veggie route, we love Chenin Blanc with Lemon Herb Sauteed Vegetables. In this recipe – available on our blog here – we sacrifice a half cup of Chenin Blanc to the lemon and herb sauce. Never easy to give up any protea Chenin Blanc, but after taking a bite and a sip, you’ll find that modest 4 oz. contribution heightens the interplay between food and wine.

When we did a tasting with Whole Foods a while back, one participant said the protea Chenin Blanc would go great with Gruyère. That sparked a thought and boy was it a good one: Chenin Blanc with a Gruyère and Parmesan Cheese Soufflé. A lot of people who’ve never made it think soufflé is tricky to make, but it’s actually simple. A simple green salad, soufflé, a glass of Chenin Blanc. You’re good to go.

Now for something completely different: dessert. Yeah, dessert and protea Chenin Blanc. The recipe is a variation on a widely circulated recipe called Lemon Brownies. We call our version Citrus Shortbread Bars, and found particular success using lime. No surprise there, given those “lime aromas” and “crisp citrus flavors” in the wine. See our our earlier post here for the details on this surprising but oh-so-delicious pairing.

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