Chilly winter days may increase our cravings for hearty red wines, but there are many moments when I find myself wanting the lightness of a refreshing white. A delicious reminder of warmer and sunnier days, crisp white wines are also a way to keep your cool in overzealously heated rooms and even cut through the heaviness of winter cuisine. One of my favorite year-round white wines is Vouvray. Produced from Chenin Blanc (also known as Pineau de la Loire), Vouvray hails from the Loire Valley region of France. Vouvray may be unfamiliar to many consumers but its roots can be traced back to the 4th century.
Chenin Blanc grapes
image courtesy of Wines of Vouvray
Chenin Blanc is found in other wine regions (South Africa has some impressive offerings) but Vouvray winemakers were the pioneers in crafting Chenin Blanc wines in a range of styles: sparking, still, dry, and sweet. Ranging in color from straw yellow for sparkling wines to golden amber for mature sweet wines, young Vouvray often reveals notes of rose, quince and acacia. As it evolves, Vouvray displays aromas of apricot, candied fruit and honey. Even as it ages, Vouvray maintains freshness because of Chenin Blanc's vibrant acidity. Beautifully crafted and generally quite affordable, elegant Vouvray is so easy to love. Get started on your exploration of Vouvray with one of these charming wines.
Fines Bulles (Sparkling): Domaine de la Racauderie,
Jean-Michel Gautier Vouvray Brut NV ($18)
Delightfully dry with fine bubbles, this sparkling 100% Chenin Blanc beauty is made in the same method as Champagne. Vibrant and zesty with flavors of fresh apples, golden pears, and a hint of crusty brioche.
Sec (Dry): Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau, Cuvée Silex 2015 ($25)
Made from organic grapes, this crisp and clean Chenin Blanc envelops the palate in pristine flavors of honey, chamomile, and lemon.
Demi-Sec (Medium Dry): Domaine de la Chataigneraie, Benoît Gautier, Vouvray de Gautier 2016 ($14)
A satisfying bridge between dry and sweet, this wine beautifully expresses the richer side of Chenin Blanc. Great minerality and flavors of creamy lemon curd, crisp apples, and a touch of spice.
Moelleux (Sweet): Domaine Huet, Le Mont 2003 ($75)
Decadent, rich, and sweet but not cloying thanks to energetic acidity, this superb example of sweet Chenin Blanc is a splurge that shows how beautifully these wines can age. Savor its gorgeous flavors of ripe quince, citrus, and honey.