Updated July 18th 2023
Chenin Blanc is a versatile grape that can be made in different styles, from young and fresh to rich and full-bodied. It can also be made in semi-sweet, sparkling, and sweet styles. Different styles pair with different types of food. This wine guide will give you the best food pairings for Chenin Blanc.
Chenin Blanc food pairing is not always easy because there are several styles of wine made from this grape variety. It is crucial to know the style of Chenin Blanc when pairing it with food. Pairings range from shellfish and light salads to heavy pork dishes and sweet desserts. Still, one characteristic is common across styles: the wine's fruitiness. Keep reading if you want to understand how to pair different styles of Chenin Blanc with food.
Chenin Blanc is a versatile grape variety that can be made in different wine styles, about which you can read more further down this wine guide. This grape has certain characteristics common to all the styles it is made in: fruitiness, low alcohol and high acidity. It gives medium-bodied white wines with an aromatic profile.
Chenin Blanc is mostly grown in France and South Africa, but also in the United States, Argentina, Australia and some other countries. It originates from the Loire Valley in France.
Typical aromas of Chenin Blanc are pear, yellow apple, flowers, peach, melon and tropical fruit. Chenin Blanc wines can also express a distinct minerality, depending on the wine region.
South African Chenin Blanc is famous worldwide. The grape in this region is produced in different styles, mostly the semi-sweet aromatic style and young and fresh style. It is often used in blends together with Viognier and Sémillion to make rich white blends similar to oaked Chardonnay, but with a slightly sweeter and more aromatic profile.
Chenin Blanc wines from the Loire Valley in France are slightly different from those made in South Africa. Due to the Loire's cooler climate, French Chenin Blanc usually has higher acidity, which makes it great for sparkling wine. Chenin Blanc is the white grape variety used for the sparkling wine Crémant de Loire. Riper Chenin Blanc grapes can be made into rich, off-dry styles. The most popular style of Chenin Blanc from Loire is called Vouvray, which has distinct floral aromas and sometimes hints of ginger and honey due to the noble rot.
As mentioned earlier in this guide, Chenin Blanc is a versatile grape variety with the ability to produce a wide range of different wine styles. Let’s take a look at the different styles of Chenin Blanc and what is typical for each of them.
The most common styles of Chenin Blanc are:
Young and fresh Chenin Blanc is often described as fruity and crisp. It has characteristic notes of pear, yellow apple, flowers, chamomile and tropical fruit. The high acidity and the low alcohol, in combination with distinct fruit flavors, makes this style of Chenin Blanc zippy and easy to drink. This style is more common from South Africa than from Loire in France, but it can be found in both wine regions. Some people find this style similar to Sauvignon Blanc, especially Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, or the US.
Rich and full-bodied Chenin Blanc is aged in oak, which gives aromas of baked apple, brioche, cream and butter, in addition to the typical aromas of pear, flowers and tropical fruit. This style is slightly similar to oaked Chardonnay, but more aromatic. It is also sometimes compared to Viognier.
Semi-sweet Chenin Blanc has residual sugar. This is a very common style of Chenin Blanc and it usually says “off dry” or “demi-sec” on the label. The grapes’ natural sugar brings out richer aromas of ripe fruits, especially tropical fruits, and flowers. Ginger and jasmine are common for this style. The high acidity and the fruit aromas make it similar to Riesling.
Sparkling Chenin Blanc is usually a crisp and aromatic sparkling wine with a hint of sweetness. When produced in Loire it is called Crémant de Loire and it is made using the same method as Champagne. It is more floral and aromatic than most Champagnes. Sparkling Chenin Blanc is also made in South Africa, where it usually has an even more distinct aromatic profile.
Sweet Chenin Blanc is a fortified white wine. This style is quite common in Loire in France. It is lighter and has less alcohol than Sauternes. It has characteristic flavors of marzipan, pineapple, cream and peach.
There is a Chenin Blanc wine for every occasion. The different styles of this grape variety make it fun, yet tricky to pair it with food. Chenin Blanc food pairing does not have to be too complicated with some guidance. Here you will find the best tips on how to pair Chenin Blanc with food.
In order to find the best food for your bottle of Chenin Blanc, you need to take into consideration the following characteristics of the wine:
Chenin Blanc should be served cold. The best serving temperature is 7-10°C (45-48°F).
A fresh, young and fruity Chenin Blanc is a great wine to more delicate dishes. This style is zesty and crispy, and pairs well with shellfish, fish and salads.
Good food pairings for young, fruity Chenin Blanc are:
Tips! This lighter style of Chenin Blanc pairs well with the same type of foods as a Sauvignon Blanc does. Take a look at our Sauvignon Blanc Food Pairing guide for more tips.
A rich and full-bodied Chenin Blanc aged in oak pairs well with richer dishes, such as chicken or pork as well as creamy sauces. It also pairs well with heavier seafood dishes.
Good food pairings for oaked Chenin Blanc are:
Tips! This heavier and richer style of Chenin Blanc pairs well with the same type of foods as a Viognier does. Take a look at our Viognier Food Pairing guide for more tips.
Semi-sweet Chenin Blanc has residual sugar and an aromatic perfume. This style pairs well with many different types of food thanks to its high acidity and dash of sweetness. The sweetness in the wine balances heat, which makes semi-sweet Chenin Blanc a perfect pairing with flavorful spicy foods.
Good food pairings for semi-sweet Chenin Blanc are:
Tips! This semi-sweet style of Chenin Blanc pairs well with the same type of foods as an off-dry Riesling does. Take a look at our Riesling Food Pairing guide for more tips.
Sparkling Chenin Blanc pairs well with a wide range of dishes, especially deep-fried foods and delicate seafood dishes. The grape's aromatic perfume makes it a great pairing with flavorful dishes. The pairings are similar to the young and fruity style of Chenin Blanc, but the bubbles in the sparkling version make it even more suitable for food with high fat content.
Good food pairings for sparkling Chenin Blanc are:
Tips! This sparkling style of Chenin Blanc can pair well with the same type of foods as a dry Champagne (Sec) does. Take a look at our Champagne Food Pairing guide for more tips.
Sweet Chenin Blanc is a dessert wine and is best paired with fruity desserts. It also pairs well with strong cheeses.
Good food pairings for sweet Chenin Blanc are:
Tips! Always match the sweetness in the wine with the sweetness of the food. In our Wine & Desserts Pairing guide you will find useful tips.
Chenin Blanc is an aromatic wine that pairs lovely with flavorful dishes. It is known for being a great pairing to Southeast Asian cuisines, including spicy dishes. For spicy foods we recommend a semi-sweet Chenin Blanc. The sweetness in the wine will balance the heat in the food. Sweet and sour dishes are also great pairings with Chenin Blanc.
Chenin Blanc is an excellent food pairing with poultry. Chicken and turkey with different types of seasonings pair well with this aromatic wine. In fact, Chenin Blanc is a perfect wine pairing for the Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and cranberry sauce. The aromatic profile of Chenin Blanc will balance sweet and savory flavors of this dish.
A young and fruity Chenin Blanc is a good pairing with chicken salads or Chicken Kiev. The high acidity of the wine will cut through the deep-fried chicken.
Is it possible to pair white wine and meat? Yes, it is! An oaked Chenin Blanc is a rich and full-bodied wine which pairs lovely with different meat dishes, especially pork chops or ham. It is a good pairing for semi-sweet pork dishes.
A young and fresh Chenin Blanc or a sparkling Chenin Blanc are perfect with light and delicate seafood dishes. The minerality in the wine matches the flavors of the seafood. Oysters, scampi and grilled fish are all good pairings. Fish and chips will also pair very well with the sparkling style.
Chenin Blanc cheese pairing is certainly interesting, as this wine pairs with almost all types of cheeses. However, not all styles of Chenin Blanc match with all cheeses. The style of the wine will determine which cheese to pair with it.
The fresh acidity and the low alcohol make Chenin Blanc an excellent wine choice for salads. Salad Niçoise or a colorful salad with fruits and cheese are good choices. The high acidity and aromatic profile of the wine stand up to acidic and sweet dressings, as well as the sweetness from apples, pears or other fruits.
The sweet style of Chenin Blanc is a dessert wine similar to Sauternes. It will pair well with sweet and fruity desserts, ideally those containing apples, pears, apricots or tropical fruits, to match the aromas of the wine.
Enjoy your wine and food!