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Quail’s Gate Chenin Blanc

August 23, 2005

One grape that doesn’t get a lot of attention (or respect) is Chenin Blanc. Outside of the Loire Valley (home of Vouvray) and South Africa (where it’s known as Steen), Chenin Blanc is rarely seen as a single varietal, but is more often used as a filler for blends.

Which is a shame, because it’s got a lot of potential. The Quail’s Gate Limited Release Chenin Blanc (VQA) is an excellent example of what this grape can do when given some attention by a good winemaker. Quail’s Gate is (in my humble opinion) one of British Columbia’s finer wineries, and their long list of awards would seem to back this up. They make excellent Pinot Noir, a neat old vines Marechal Foch and a wide range of very tasty white wines. Their prices are a little higher than some of their competitors, but the wines are generally worth it.

Clocking in at just over $16, the Quail’s Gate Chenin Blanc is not a big seller, which is a shame in many ways. I’ve enjoyed it in the past, but I’ve heard that the flavour profile has gotten drier, and it’s moved away from being a good Vouvray clone into new, uncharted waters. So I decided to give it a shot last weekend.

In the glass, it showed off a lot of melon on the nose. I’m not the biggest fan of honeydew, but that’s what it reminded me of. In the mouth, it was a lot more complex than I expected. There was an unusual taste – not a bad one, but not one that I’ve come across before. Lots of ripe lime flavour and some mineral aftertaste, with more melon flavours rolling around in there. It was bone dry, but some of the fruit gave it the illusion of sweetness until the acidic finish. In short, it was very tasty.

Was it tasty enough to justify the price? Probably not. But I enjoyed it, and if it came in at a slightly lower price (say $13-14), I might buy it more often. The winery recommends serving their Chenin Blanc with mussels, oysters or leaner whitefish like halibut, which sounds just about perfect to me. Apparently it’s a consistent gold medal winner at the BC Wine and Oyster Festival. So if you like oysters (which I’m iffy on), and you’re looking for an interesting Canadian white – you can’t do much better than this.

(Sorry to disappoint my loyal readers, but no pictures today. There is exactly one picture of this wine available, and it’s a wee bit too distorted to post)

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