Vouvray and chenin blanc demystified

Wine — By KF Louis on November 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm
A cluster of Chenin Blanc grapes.

Image via Wikipedia

Americans like wine categories that are easy to understand. Vouvray is not one of them, but don’t let it stop you from an amazing category of wine.

“Voov-ray” isn’t easy to pronounce, and it’s not actually a grape. It’s an appellation located in France’s Loire Valley. And more complicated yet, there are many different wine styles that may contain Vouvray on the label.

So which way is up? I’ll try to break it down in a few hundred words or less, with the answers to the questions my readers ask most about Vouvray, and three wine picks to help you decide whether or not Vouvray is for you:

If it says Vouvray on the label, what grape am I really drinking?

A white varietal called chenin blanc, although sometimes Vouvrays will contain riesling and a handful of other lesser knowns. Chenin blanc is versatile enough to produce an amazing array of wines ranging from dry (no residual-sugar), off-dry (semi-sweet), sweet and sparkling varieties.

What’s to love about chenin blanc from Vouvray?

It’s a relatively affordable class of great white wines that are really easy to pair with food — from hot summer days to Thanksgiving. If you are currently drinking chardonnay, riesling and sauvingon blanc, you need to give Vouvray a try.

What about chenin blanc from other regions in the world?

Practically every white wine region of the world produces at least a small amount of chenin blanc. Most are OK; few are decent to excellent. Put simply, I rarely buy chenin blancs from anywhere but the Loire Valley, and that’s because the quality-to-price ratio (QPR) is fantastic.

Where can I buy these wines and which ones first?

LoireValley_map

When it comes to buying new types of international wines — period — I advise my readers to head for a reputable wine shop rather than buy online. That’s because a talented wine professional can help you sort out the many dimensions of a category like Vouvray, and put you on to a few good ones the first time around, and if not, the second time.

That said, if you’d rather buy a few online, here are a few fast links to some great examples of wines in the Vouvray region:

2008 Pascal Janvier Jasnières

2008 Pascal Janvier Jasnières

This is the wine to replace the chardonnay you were thinking of serving for your next food pairing. Very slightly sweet and full of peachy, citrusy and melony flavors. Shellfish, vinegar-dressed salads, Thanksgiving turkey, you name it…this will pretty much work as long as the food flavor doesn’t overpower the wine.

This one is a little sweeter and richer than the first Vouvray I listed. The Cuvee Silex is great on its own before dinner, or can be paired with spicy Asian or Mexican dishes and fruit-based desserts.

Champalou Vouvray Pétillant Brut ($20)

Champalou Vouvray Pétillant Brut ($20)An outstanding example of a sparkling wine from Vouvray. Floral on the nose and dry on the palate, this 100% chenin blanc name is a bit more simple in fruit flavor and less effervescent than typical Champagnes of the same price range.

Tags: Chenin blanc, Vouvray, price ratio, Vouvrays, Wine
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