This summer, I had the chance to visit the Loire Valley in France and was particularly excited to see the village of Vouvray, which ranks among the world's most prestigious sources for Chenin Blanc. Chenin Blanc, the only grape allowed in Vouvray, shares similarities with both Chardonnay and Riesling. It has the same rich texture and primary flavors as Chardonnay with its apple and pear notes. It also shares vibrant minerality and bright acidity with Riesling, allowing for exceptional aging potential. The best Vouvrays can improve and mature for decades.
The Village of Vouvray
I arrived by bus and had lunch at le Val Joli, a restaurant where they served a "burger" made with pulled pork, mushrooms, and goat's milk cheese. It didn't resemble any burger I've ever seen, but it was delicious - particularly when served with a glass of dry Vouvray by the gregarious owner's grandchild who was helping for the day. Afterwards, I walked down a road bathed in bright sunlight and cool breezes tasting bottle after bottle of delightful wine from the quiet vineyards. The whole town, which could be seen in a few hours on foot, was surrounded by some of the best white wine vineyards in France.
The following are a few of my favorite Vouvray categories.
Dry sparkling wine: as previously mentioned, Vouvray is best known in France for sparkling wine. Sparkling Vouvray is light, refreshing, and exceedingly crisp, making it a great choice for aperitifs or pairing with salads and seafood.
Dry, still Vouvray: these wines are comparable to Sauvignon Blanc, but without with the grassy notes and with even more acidity. Share these wines with people who enjoy New Zealand whites or Pinot Grigio.
Dry, oaked Vouvray: some of these wines can be compared with Chardonnay. They have a roundness and oxygenated character that make them great with foods like chicken salad or roasted squash.
Moderately sweet Vouvray: heat and sweetness go well together, so these wines will pair with spicy Mexican or Thai food. Few wines work so well with picante cuisine.
Although Chenin Blanc is grown in multiple regions around the world, Vouvray remains preeminent for the varietal and I'm looking forward to my next chance to visit. Keep your eyes open for Vouvray and be sure to try it when you get a chance.