The first thing to check on a restaurant’s wine list: if there are any chenin blancs—and which ones. Not only is it a go-to pre-dinner option, but it’s also as versatile with food as that other marvel of white wine compatibility, riesling. Chenin’s gracefulness derives from its bright acidity, clearly delineated fruit and hints of spice. Some added bonuses: It’s moderate in price and it ages beautifully. And since this grape’s charm is such a well-kept secret, these three bottles would also make a wonderful gift for white wine lovers looking to discover something new.
Domaine des Baumard, Savennières, 2015
This bone-dry chenin has impeccable bloodlines, coming from a family estate whose owners have been working rocky soils near Anjou since 1634. In 2015, the grapes ripened more fully than in a normal year, but the wine remains bracing and minerally. With lime, pear and almond aromas, this Savennières is intense and concentrated, and its long, stony finish makes it a natural pick for shellfish.
$30, Marty’s, Newton
Raats Original Unwooded Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, 2017
More than half of the world’s chenin blanc is grown in South Africa, and winemaker Bruwer Raats is one of the country’s most accomplished specialists.
Sandstone and decomposed granite soils make for a crisp and fleshy wine with juicy peach, citrus and baking spice notes. This is broader on the palate and softer in texture than the French originals, and its supple fruit flavors are delicious with grains and roasted root vegetables.
$13, Brix, South End
Laurent Kraft, Vouvray, 2015
From vineyards in Touraine due east of Savennières, this seventh-generation producer makes wine that’s a bit gentler and more honeyed, but no less beautifully structured. It’s matured on the yeast—no oak aging here—so your palate will take note of the limestone soils, which impart a refreshing chalky salinity, and you might taste a touch of sugar as well. Pair it with mildly spicy Asian dishes.
$18, Coolidge Liquors
Sandy Block is a master of wine and the vice president of beverage operations for Legal Sea Foods.