The Paradox of Chenin Blanc

The wines were quite different, though the sample size was far too small to reach any conclusions about whether they represent their various terroirs. While terroir — the combination of soils and bedrock, climate, altitude, angle of inclination toward the sun and the human touch — no doubt plays an essential role with these wines, we would need to do far more studying, over years with many producers, before drawing tentative conclusions.

The Badenhorst nonetheless is a perfect example of the sweet-and-dry paradox of chenin blanc. This wine had the beautiful, rich texture that I often find in good examples. It tasted strongly of lemon, but with an earthy element and a final bright, floral, honeyed impression. The wine was definitely dry, refreshing and lively enough to prompt the next sip.

I have to say, I was thoroughly impressed with this wine. It was a great value at just $16.

The Leo Steen had an even richer texture than the Badenhorst. But what most stood out about this wine was its energy and vibrant acidity. It had aromas of flowers and lemon, as well as that signature touch of honey. Altogether, it was tangy, lip-smacking and succulent, another great value at $18.

The Baudry felt simultaneously light and voluminous, beautifully textured and open. It, too, was floral and lemon-scented. But on the palate it seemed deeper, with lingering flavors of chamomile, herbs and honey, and maybe a touch of the toasted almonds that Ms. Mirandola Mullen found in her wine.

It was the most complex of the three wines. Was it worth paying roughly twice as much, at $35? That’s a question that must be answered individually.

Part of that price is the result of tariffs imposed by President Donald J. Trump (suspended this year as the European Union and the United States resolved a dispute over airline subsidies). But it also includes the added value of getting a wine from a stretch of the Loire Valley that is hallowed ground for chenin blanc, and from one of the region’s most respected producers.

Each of these wines was absolutely dry, and each had the capacity nonetheless to convey an impression of tender sweetness. This is a wonderful, perhaps mystifying characteristic of the chenin blanc grape, assuming, naturally, that it is grown in a proper place, farmed conscientiously and made into wine with care and attention.