In honor of Arbor Day, I’ve got a very interesting wine in store for all of us on the second episode of Winery Crasher. You won’t believe what I just found: Chenin Blanc that helps you save the earth–and maybe even plant trees–just by drinking it!
Firstly, I want to give a huge thank you to Kevin Williams of the podcasts TV Channeling and Last Weekly, who gave me the idea to do this episode. Thank you, Kevin!
- 3:11 – Intro
- 4:06 – How Climate Change is Affecting Wine
- 8:00 – What is Chenin Blanc?
- 8:50 – All About Releaf Sustainable Chenin Blanc
- 10:40 – Review of Releaf Chenin Blanc
- 12:34 – Chenin Blanc Compared to Other White Wines
- 13:12 – Releaf Chenin Blanc’s Grade
- 14:48 – A Quick Recap
Climate Change is Affecting Wine in Big Ways
So it’s important for us to talk a little bit about climate change because it really affects wine. I think talking about organic and more sustainable wines in-depth should be a whole other episode. But it’s good to just get a brief introduction because there are more and more organic sustainable wines being made. Wine Enthusiast magazine mentions that grapes are very sensitive to climate and therefore climate change.
I’m introducing a wine vocab word today and that word is terroir (“tear-wah”). Terroir simply means the environment that a grape is grown in the climate of the weather, the soil, etc.
All of these aspects affects a wine’s flavor. Therefore, it only makes sense that grapes would therefore be very vulnerable to any changes in climate. Rolling Stone notes wine grapes need an extremely specific climate to produce balanced wines. Already, growers are entering regions that were once too cold for the crop and seeking higher altitudes for better temperatures. This article then goes on to say a recent study predicted that if global temperatures rise by two degrees Celsius, suitable wine grape regions could shrink by as much as 56% by the end of the century!
While climate change has negatively impacted most wines, there is one country that is seeing some benefit from climate change: Germany. In her book, The Wine Bible, Karen MacNeil writes that Germany has actually benefited from climate change. For example, German wine regions in the 1960s and 1970s struggled with good vintages.
Another wine vocab word: vintage. Vintage is the wine produced in a certain year.
At this time, only two or three German vintages in a decade had grapes ripe enough to successfully make good wine. Today virtually every vintage is successful! MacNeil does mention later in the chapter, however, that there is one exception and that is eiswein (pronounced “ice vine,” and in English: ice wine). Ice wine is wine made out of grapes that were frozen in the winter. People literally pick the grapes frozen and it makes a very decadent sweet wine. Because people pick ice wine grapes so late in the season, warm weather is obviously going to be a problem.
(If we by chance have any listeners from Germany, please feel free to DM me on Instagram at @WineryCrasher. I’d like your personal take on this situation. What is your perspective on climate change and German wine?)
What is Chenin Blanc? (Pronounced “Sha-nin Blanc”)
Chenin Blanc is not very common here in America, and I’d like to explain a little more about it. It is the most popular wine grape in South Africa. While the Wine Bible mentions its acreage is declining, it still maintains its number one spot. The Wine Bible also says that many South African Chenin Blancs are simple but pretty pleasant. And I think this plays well into what you’ll you’ll hear later on in my review in this podcast.
Releaf Chenin Blanc
I purchased my bottle of Releaf Sustainable Chenin Blanc at my local Total Wine for $9.99. I was also very intrigued reading everything about it at the store. Total Wine’s information label says that not only is this wine made from organically grown grapes, but that proceeds go to support a nursery in South Africa as well. I’m reasoning that this nursery is a plant nursery and not a baby nursery.
In other words, this is the perfect Arbor Day wine for one reason: you could possibly be helping plant trees simply by drinking this wine!
I was a little bit sad because I went to website to printed on the label and it was a dead link. So I couldn’t find out much more information at least directly from the winery itself. I was intrigued to find out more because I was so impressed by their business model and culture of sustainability.
Overall, I was excited to taste this wine. I had never had a South African Chenin Blanc before, and it’s kind of like the flagship white wine of South Africa. That, plus the sustainability model made me so excited to taste the wine and review it.
Firstly, it’s really important that you come to your own conclusion. That is, you taste wine, you buy bottles, you take notes, and you decide what is good and bad in your opinion.
Just to know this wine is dry. There are some sweet Chenin Blancs, but this one is dry. Overall, this wine reminded me of a toned down Sauvignon Blanc. For those of you who don’t know, I Love New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It’s herbaceous; it has a lot of basil taste as well as tropical fruit. I just love it because it’s so refreshing. So this Chenin Blanc had a little bit of that herb taste to it and a little bit of the tropical fruit tastes as well. But it was a bit toned down. It was also earthier and saltier than a Sauvignon Blanc, and it was overall very acidic (which is a good quality). Finally, it had a little bit of both honey and melon flavors. But all said flavors were mild. Also, the saltiness of the wine dominated.
Don’t get me wrong, the wine was pretty good. For all you 90s kids out there, it didn’t have the tropical Fruit Gusher flavor explosion that I was hoping for. By the way, if you did not like that I just used Fruit Gushers as a wine flavor, I don’t care.
Chenin Blanc: The Best of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc
One wine blog notes Chenin Blanc’s flavor is between a Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. I think this couldn’t be a better descriptor. Why? Because again, Chenin Blanc is a bit toned down. Pinot Grigio is refreshing, but it’s a very light wine. Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, is more heavy and packs more of a flavor punch. So if you’re looking for a Goldilocks white wine that has the best of both worlds, this would be a great option.
If you want more white wine suggestions, visit my blog post on the best white wines for summer!
It seems to be an average South African Chenin Blanc according to what I was reading. It had some different flavors going on, but they were a little mild for my taste. That said, it wasn’t a terrible wine. It just wasn’t something that excited me as much as I hoped it would. Maybe you are looking for a refreshing “Goldilocks” white wine. If so, Chenin Blanc is it! And Relief has an amazing mission. Even the bottle is partly recycled glass!
A Quick Recap:
- To quickly recap, this wine tastes similar to something in between a Pinot Grigio and a Sauvignon Blanc.
- None of the flavors really popped out to me, except salt.
- But this winery has an exemplary mission and business model. They are walking the walk in regard to sustainability.
- Had it not been for Releaf’s sustainable mission, I would have given this wine a lower grade.
- I’m giving Releaf Sustainable Chenin Blanc a B+.
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That is it for this week. Please remember that your life is valuable. Being bold means being responsible in all of your drinking choices. See you next time! Cheers!