by Fred McMillin
for October 6, 1997

Peter and the Chenin, 50-Year Romance


A Good Fifty Years, 1946—1996:

1946—A DRY Chenin Blanc called "White Pinot" is produced by Peter Mondavi and the Krug Winery team.

1954—A SLIGHTLY-SWEET Chenin Blanc is introduced by the team.

1996—A DRY Chenin Blanc is introduced by the team.

The Rest of the Story: The 1954 Sensation—The off-dry Chenin Blanc created a national sensation. Charles Krug Chenin Blanc became the standard against which other American Chenins were judged. The vast improvement was due to the Mondavi pioneering work with cold fermentation which magnified the inherent fruit aromas and flavors of that grape. Appropriately, the Krug version was the first domestic wine to be labeled "Chenin Blanc."

So, in 1996 why go back to the same dry version produced 50 years ago? Answer: It's NOT the same. This new Chenin Blanc has all the modern bells and whistles that have evolved in recent decades...French oak, malolactic fermentation, stirring of the lees (post- fermentation flavor-laden sediment), etc. It's even been given a name of its own, "Pineau." The Chenin Blanc originated in the Loire Valley, where it commonly is called the "Pineau de la Loire." This is the Cadillac of Chenins...drive in and fill 'er up.

The Wine
1996 Pineau, Napa Valley
Charles Krug Winery of the Peter Mondavi Family
St. Helena, Napa Valley
Production—Only 625 cases
Composition—99% Chenin Blanc, 1% Muscat of Alexandria
Food Affinities—Fish, fowl, Oriental dishes, or alone as a conversation piece
Contact—Larry Challacombe's office, (707)967-2200

Postscript: The Charles Krug Winery did more in 1996 than introduce the Pineau. Compared to the prior year, sales of Krug Chardonnay increased nearly 50%, Cabernet Sauvignon 60% and Merlot a whopping 105%!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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