When quenching the burn of Indian or Asian spice, acidic whites like sauvignon blanc can just add fuel to the fire.

Softer chenin blanc, on the one hand, is a "noncombatant," says Ken Forrester. "It's soothing." Expect such praise from Forrester, since he makes some of South Africa's greatest chenin blanc, known there also as "steen."

But his exceptional chenins fit the description at all three tiers of his line: the $12 bargain Petit (melons, nectar, green apples), the more elegant and complex $17 Reserve (the vanilla polish of oak, pineapple, pithy citrus), and the FMC.

At $63, it's a serious collector splurge. But with grapes picked at five different stages of ripeness in the blend, this gorgeous white shows chenin's alluring, complex personality: exotic, racy, honeyed, with hazelnuts, candied apple, mint, and a richness that almost tastes like coconut milk. Really. Bring. On. The. Spice!

- Craig LaBan

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2013, $11 a glass at Tria Wine Cafes (first glass $5.50 on Nov. 2 for "Sunday School" special); special order only in state wine stores $17.09 a bottle (code 549460). Forrester's The FMC Chenin Blanc 2009, $63.99 (code 19764) in PA stores. All Forrester chenins (including Petit) are sold at Townsend (1623 E. Passyunk Ave.).