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Eat & Drink » Wine

Visit From Vouvray

The embodiment of French Chenin Blanc



One of the largest of France’s wine regions—it’s about two-thirds the size of Bordeaux—the Loire is a spot where nearly every type of wine imaginable is made, a place with a great diversity of wine styles. One thing they almost all have in common, however, is bracing acidity—which generally makes Loire wines good food companions. The best known of the Loire wines are Sancerre, Muscadet, Pouilly-Fume and, my favorite, Vouvray. One of the reasons Vouvray (voo-vray) is a favorite wine for me is that it’s mostly still affordable, with the exception of high-end, collectible Vouvray.

There are various styles of Vouvray, from dry (sec) and medium-dry (demi-sec) to medium-sweet (moelleux) and sweet (doux). And they can be still or sparkling. For our purposes, we’ll just be discussing the most common version of Vouvray, the mostly dry, still type—though one of the things I love about Vouvray is that even when bone dry, it still typically has a little honeyed sweetness.

By law, Vouvray must be made exclusively from the Chenin Blanc grape, and it’s in Vouvray that you’ll discover Chenin Blanc’s unique complexity. So, if you want to know what Chenin Blanc tastes like, turn to Vouvray. The Loire’s Chenin Blanc is the world’s best. In great years, Vouvray has stiletto-like acidic sharpness combined with balanced sweetness. It’s a pas de deux of dynamic tension that the French have a word for: nervosité. And, in great vintages, Vouvray can have tremendous aging potential.

I was reminded how much I enjoy Vouvray in summer during the recent Taste of the Nation event, where Domaine Pichot 2010 Vouvray ($12.99) was being poured. Jean-Claude Pichot’s family has been making wine since 1734. He intentionally keeps yields for his Vouvray low, assuring the grapes’ fullest intensity. The wine is off-dry, with golden raisin, honeydew and peach notes and has a surprisingly long finish. Like much Vouvray, this version would pair nicely with many lighter veal, pork and chicken dishes. And, while I haven’t yet tasted it, if you’re interested in trying a sweeter version of Vouvray, Domaine Pichot Moelleux Vouvray 2005 is also available here, for $18.99.

An always dependable, baseline Vouvray is exemplified in Chateau de Montfort Vouvray Demi-Sec 2009 ($12.49). It has a near-perfect balance of sweetness and acidity; it’s a truly harmonious wine with green apple and Anjou pear aromas, along with stony minerality. On the palate, there are gorgeous apricot, peach, almond and honey flavors in abundance—a very good example of Vouvray. I would drink this with sushi, chicken or “the other white meat,” pork. Its appealing sweetness would also make this Vouvray a good choice to serve before a meal as an aperitif.

One of the top vignerons of the Vouvray appellation is Bernard Fouquet of Domaine des Aubuisiares. So, I was thrilled to find Domaine des Aubuisiares Cuvée de Silex Vouvray 2010 ($16.99) on the shelf locally. Although still very youthful, the wine is quite elegant, with clean minerality and fine acidity—a bright, flinty wine with pineapple and citrus notes. I’d pair this with fish, seafood or goat cheese. The wine’s subtle sweetness would probably serve spicy fare well, too—Creole shrimp or a mild Asian curry, for example.

I was also excited to find a recent addition to the Vouvray wine selection here (all of these wines were purchased at the 300 West wine store): Clos de Nouys Vouvray Sec 2009 ($18.99). This Vouvray is bracing, clean and refreshing: not much on the nose, but with green apple and grapefruit flavors and a tangy, lime-zest finish. The driest of this Vouvray bunch, I’d team it with fish from the grill or fresh-shucked oysters.