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Need a Viognier or Chenin Blanc to pair with cod chowder...

Our aspiring gourmet chef friend has invited us to a dinner party and assigned the wine pairings. I love wine but don't have nearly her funds (or any disposable funds really...). Despite some great inexpensive finds I've been able to introduce her to, I'd like for once to be able to bring something that meets both her wine snobbery expectations (she routinely spends $50-$60 a bottle) and is deserving of the generous meal she's spent days cooking. But I still have very little cash and am supposed to bring 2 bottles...

So any surprisingly good Viogniers or Chenin Blancs out there in maybe the $20 range?? Something I can find at TJs or BevMo would be even better since I don't think I'll be able to get to a specialty store...

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  1. Don't know where you live....but here in L.A., I found Cold Heaven viognier at $16 a bottle at
    Topline in Glendale. I doubt that TJs has it...but I'm not sure about BevMo. It's really very nice.

    4 Replies
    1. re: perk

      Chenin Blanc from Loire is your best bet. Stay away from Viognier, especially Condrieu as they will be expensive and, imho, not one I would like to pair with chowder as they can be very rich wines.

      Baumard and Closel from Savennieres. Perhaps, Vouvray from Huet and Chidaine. Also Chidaine's Montlouis which I also like.

      Perhaps, you can also mix it up with Muscadet, also from Loire. While not from Chenin Blanc, I like the bracing and refreshing acidity that goes well with seafood. Pepiere and Guy Bossard are 2 of my go to producers, among many others. Lots to choose from for under $20.

      1. re: RCC

        +99 -- Viognier and Condrieu are some of my all-time favorites, but they're way too subtle to go with clam chowder. There's a lot going on in those glasses, and it would be a shame to have them smothered under the heavy potatoes and cream and bacon fat.

        Vouvray, Chablis, Sancerre -- any of the crisp, slightly mineral whites from the Loire would be a far better choice.

        1. re: sunshine842

          mmmmmmmm Condrieu IS Viognier. But there are many viogniers that are not Condrieu. Subtle? Strange word to describe the peachiest wine I know. Cannot imagine any viognier with any chowder.

          Chablis has never been from the Loire. It's from Chablis, which is the northernmost section of Burgundy. and it might go with a Cod Chowder, but hard to say, without knowing how the cook is making this chowder.

          If I were asked to bring wine for chowder, and didn't know the recipe or flavor profile; AND wanted to spend less than $20 per bottle, I'd choose a sparkling wine. Probably a Gruet Brut (New Mexico), or perhaps a Spanish Cava -- but not Freixenet.

          1. re: ChefJune

            Oh, I am quite familiar with Condrieu -- I *love* the stuff, although it's all too rare that I manage to find an affordable bottle. I was frankly disappointed by the last bottle of non-AOC Viognier I bought -- I was all excited that it might be even a shadow of the lovely Condrieu, but while it was a pleasant enough wine, it wasn't even close.

            And yes, you're right, of course, on Chablis. I know better...have visited Chablis...and can claim nothing other than caffeine deficiency for having written that it's from the Loire! A high-end Chablis would, I think, not go well with chowder...but a more "mass appeal" one might.

            Personally, I'd still probably reach for a dry-ish minerally Loire white -- the dryness would cut the richness, the mineral notes would play off of the fish, and the slight fruitiness would work with the cream.

            (but I never, ever turn down bubbles)

    2. Oregon's Penner-Ash makes a very nice Viognier. $26.95 at Woodland Hills Wine Co, per Wine-Searcher. K&L shows it online at $1 more in Hollywood. I'd think the Cold Heaven would be quite good too.

      1. Tasted Consciliance (sp) last week. Best CA viognier in my memory since a Jos Phelps from the 1980's, Reminded me of a top quality Condrieu.

        If you want a good Chenin look to the Loire. You should be able to find a Baumard Savinnieres in you price range.

        Beware of taking recommendations from MevMo. They have a lot of high margin crap that they have to push to keep their jobs. If you know specifically what is good or what you want - and they have it - the price will likely be good. If not, or even if they do have it, they will try to swing you over to something else. Probably not as good but with a bigger margin for them.

        1. Your friend may look down on my suggestion since it is very easy on the pocketbook,
          but Pine Ridge has a very nice chenin blanc viognier blend which is a great summer
          wine and which goes for $13. For less than $20 you will be able to find a good
          Vouvray as well.

          1. Is there a way to think outside the varietal? I'm not sure if either is a match for what I'd imagine would go into the cod chowder.

            If you can't I wouldn't discount South Africa and New Zealand from your Chenin blanc search.

            1. Yalumba viognier at Costco for $12.99 a bottle. Made Wine Spec's Top 100 WOTY list a couple vintages ago.

              1. Aspiring gourmet chef my butt. If she is spending "days" making chowder and demanding that others bring wine and who knows what else she is nothing but a cheap blowhard.
                Any gourmet chef would not trust others to pair wine with a dish that took days to create.

                1 Reply
                1. re: justicenow

                  Well, that's a refreshing expression of what most of us have been too nice to voice.

                2. I love Chenin Blanc. One of my favorite varieties. Here's Terry Theise on it:

                  "An extremely finicky fellow, Chenin Blanc sees to give its best only in a small fillet of France along the Loire River and its tributaries. If Riesling is a brilliant wine, Chenin is more luminous; its light softer, more dispersed. If Riesling is vigorous and energetic, Chenin is more stately. It reflects the sweet light of the place it is grown, where the most classical and perfect French is spoken, and there is a corresponding perfection in the voice of fine Chenin. It has yet to make great wine anyplace else, and there isn't all that much truly great Chenin even along the Loire. But when you find one it can be soul-expanding as few other wines -- few other things -- can be. It's usually described in terms of quince, rosewater, and lanolin, and I often find the smell of a blown-out candle. I remember an '82 Coulee de Serrant that smelled like a whole church's worth of blown-out candles, and I half-expected a procession of monks to parade through the dining room. Chenin is also more yielding than Riesling, but it can't be called soft. Everything about it is allusive."

                  Francois Chidaine's Vouvrays and Montlouis-sur-Loires are usually in the $18-25 range, and are excellent. The 2008 Chidaine "Clos Habert" is one my favorite wines of recent vintage (2009 ain't bad either, but inferior to 08). There's a bit of RS in the Clos Habert cuvee, but the intense acidity and minerality of the 08 vintage render it merely an impression of sweetness. The dry cuvees are also excellent, but not as complex.

                  Huet is, for most, the gold standard of Loire Chenins. I like Chidaine just as much. And I love his prices all the more!

                  Savennieres might be a bit above you're price-range, but there are some similarly styled Chenin Blancs from nearby. Chateau Soucherie makes some bargain priced Anjou blancs (around $15) that might make for an acceptable Savennieres substitute. I like them, but they aren't very special wines. But excellent value.

                  Chris Kissick ("the Winedoctor" and Loire Valley expert) on both domaines: