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Vibrant Vouvrays

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, and Mark Britten

In his 1998 book The Wine Avenger, Willie Gluckstern expresses his unabashed love for the Chenin Blanc grape. He asserts that while overlooked by many, Chenin Blanc “produces some of the world’s greatest food wines.” Describing the character of Chenin Blanc wines as “green and earthy, yet aromatically bright, apple-like, and tinged with vanilla,” Gluckstern concludes that they possess “a very grown-up taste.”

The distinctive character of this grape reaches its apogee in France’s Loire Valley, where it is a solo performer in several of the region’s wines. The most famous of these is Vouvray, named for a village located just east of the city of Tours. Vouvray varies in style and sweetness. Chenin Blanc, like Riesling, possesses good acidity. This enables it to produce wines that are dry (sec), slightly sweet (demi-sec), or rich and sweet (moelleux). Dry versions usually feature the word sec on the label. Wines labeled simply Vouvray will generally be off-dry.

The staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind tasted 13 Vouvrays, both dry and off-dry. The wines were distinctive, exhibiting elements of both citrus and white fruits such as apple and pear, with many displaying an attractively earthy honey note. Overall, these wines were fairly complex and interesting to taste.

The panel’s top pick was theFrançois Pinon 2014 Vouvray“Les Déronnières”($27). Produced from the grapes of a single vineyard site,the wine is just off-dry, with its 1.8% residual sugar beautifully balancing the wine’s firm acidity. The wine shows a complex array of lemon, pear, and herbal notes that culminate in a very long finish.

The tasting’s top value was theDomaine des Aubuisiéres 2014Vouvray Cuvée de Silex($18). With just a hint of residual sugar, this crisp,refreshing wine should appeal to those who enjoy dry Rieslings. Its slightly honeyed citrusy flavors are very appealing and linger nicely.

Try these wines with seafood, pork, or chicken dishes. Their refreshing acidity makes them fine choices for dishes with complex flavors or that contain difficult-to-pair ingredients such as bitter greens. Above all, enjoy them outdoors. These are wines that beg to be sipped at a picnic or backyard cookout!

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