If ever there were a grape with a split personality the Chenin is it. A grape seemingly at odds with itself in the dual roles of major player in the New World lake of jug wine, but also a creator of fantastically long-lived wines of all levels of residual sugar, from bone dry to amazingly sweet and rich. The varietal has a high natural acidity, great for making crisp, if ordinary, wines in vast quanitities in the new world. The old world versions, most notably from its birthplace in the Loire Valley of France where it is known as Pinneau, can be an ethereal combination of honey, nuts, flowers, peaches and either bone dry or decadently sweet (moelleux). Often in the Loire it is made into a sparkling wine known as Cremant de Loire. Quality Chenin Blanc often needs a decade or more of bottle aging to show its true appeal.
Chenin is grown in great quantities in America, South Africa (as Steen) and South America (confusingly as Pinot Blanco). The best examples come from the Loire Valley in France where it can be bone dry (Savennieres, Saumur), slightly sweet (Coteaux du Layon, Touraine), or very sweet from Botrytis (Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume). These sweet versions can last for decades or longer. It also makes fine sparkling wines as in Vouvray or labeled Cremant de Loire.