What Is Vouvray?
Vouvray “voo-vray”, is both a wine (Chenin Blanc) and a region, similar to how Champagne is the namesake of the region it comes from. Known for its grandeur old world beauty and rustic chateaus, its wines reflect the regions romantic and traditional style. The Loire Valley, spaced between Champagne and Bordeaux, sits in the mid to upper left of France. It runs along the longest river in France, the Loire River, from the coast of the Atlantic ocean, inland toward Burgundy.
Vouvray is known for its Chenin Blanc that comes in a variety of styles, still and sparkling, dry to sweet. Although they also grow the largest variety of grapes in the Loire, there is nothing they take pride in more than their Chenin Blanc.
Got a sweet tooth? Learn more about sweet Vouvray.
Explaining the Loire
The Loire Valley has more than 70,000 hectares of vines and is home to over 60 appellations. Luckily, the French have been kind enough to split it into four sections in order to help differentiate climate, soils, and styles of wine. Such a large wine region can be confusing and explaining Vouvray correctly means understanding more of the Loire Valley. The entire Loire Valley are known for their diversity in styles and grapes and the unique minerality that shines through the taste of the wines.
Pays Nantais– The westernmost section of the Loire, hugging the Atlantic coast, with a cool coastal climate. Melon de Bourgogne is what this region is known for, which tends to be a favorite of many Muscadet lovers.
Anjou-Saumur– Considered the left Middle Loire. While most of the grapes grown throughout the Loire are white, this is where we start to find some reds. Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Gamay are grown here. This area is known for its Cremant de Loire, a regional appellation recognizing the sparkling wines from the Loire. The Chenin Blancs here tends to be fuller-bodied with a slight smokiness to the palate.
Touraine– Home of Vouvray and the right half of Middle Loire. This region has the most varieties of grapes grown in the Loire. Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Malbec, and Gamay. However, Vouvray is known almost exclusively for its Chenin Blanc.
Centre– This easternmost Upper Loire region grows Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Chardonnay and has a similar climate to Burgundy. This is not only the original home of Sauvignon Blanc, but also home to arguably the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world from Sancerre.
Tasting Notes of Vouvray
Straw yellow color
Still or Sparkling
Dry to sweet
Flavors of lemon, apple, pear, honey, and herbal tea
Styles of Vouvray
Sparkling- Most often, you will see sparkling Vouvray. Here the methode traditionnelle is used, the same method used for making Champagne. Still wine goes through secondary fermentation in the bottle, creating a sparkling wine.
Common sweetness levels:
Brut- Dry (you will often see this style from cooler vintages)
Demi-Sec- Sweet (you will often see this style from warmer vintages)
Still- Less often, you will see a still Vouvray.
Sec- Dry (high minerality, you will often see this style come from cooler vintages)
Tendre- Off-dry (more of a fruity profile than the Sec)
Demi-Sec- Sweet (noticeably sweet, often with flavors of sweet or candied apple)
Moelleux- Very sweet (a dessert in itself, very sweet with flavors of candied apple, pears, and ginger. You will see this come from warmer vintages)
How do I find a good Vouvray?
Everyone has a different taste in wine and the most important thing in drinking wine is finding a wine that you enjoy. With the many styles of Vouvray, there really is something for everyone. The uniqueness and the wide range of flavors that one varietal can brings astounding, it is highly suggested that you try them all.
Try a sparkling Vouvray if…You are celebrating a special occasion. Though, never limit your sparkling wine consumption strictly for special occasions, although bubbly makes everything more fun. Sparkling wine, especially Vouvray, is an excellent partner for salads and light seafood dishes. A sweet sparkling Vouvray is an excellent pairing or substitute for dessert.
Try a still Vouvray if…You are looking for the perfect afternoon accompaniment. What is often deemed as a “Porch Pounder”, a nice chilled glass of sweet Vouvray is the perfect pairing for an afternoon on the porch. As with the sparkling Vouvray, a dry Chenin Blanc goes well with salads and light seafood dishes.
Dry or sweet…Well, that is up to you! If you have any questions about the style of Vouvray you are buying, ask the clerk at your local wine shop.
How much should I spend?…In the United States, the average bottle price for a Vouvray is between $18 and $25. It is fairly affordable and some of the higher-end ones can cost about $50. Price also depends on the vintage.
Can I age Vouvray?…Yes! In fact, Vouvray ages very well. Chenin Blanc has naturally high acidity, so most of these bottles can age up to five years. Those with especially high acidity and those that are still and sweet can sometimes age successfully for decades.
History of Vouvray…an art continued from the Middle Ages
Wine has been being made in Vouvray since the Middle Ages. Back then, the Catholic Church had control over the vineyards that were at Monasteries. In the 1500 and 1600’s it was the Dutch merchants who fell in love with Vouvray and planted plenty of it in order to sell in Paris and London. Sparkling Vouvray started to gain its place in the 1700s and has been a focus since.
While many of us lack the self-control to sit on a bottle for more than a year, it is well worth the wait to hide away a bottle of Vouvray for one, two, three, or four decades! You can get a great bottle of Vouvray for under $30 here!
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