17 December 2005

Vouvray wine

Last Monday we made the trip over to the village of Vouvray to buy some special wines for the holidays. Vouvray is about an hour's drive from Saint-Aignan, but it's worth it — even with all the winemakers selling wine much closer by.

One of the wine experts whose books I've read says Vouvrays are arguably the finest white wines made in France. Hugh Johnson calls them "potentially superb" in his Modern Encyclopedia of Wine. All the wines made in the Vouvray area that carry the village's AOC label are made from Chenin Blanc grapes. Over here in the Touraine appelation, 30 miles southeast of Vouvray, most of the white wines are made with Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

In the Vouvray production area, they make a wide range of wines from that single Chenin grape variety (which is also called Pineau de la Loire). There are sparkling Vouvrays that range from very dry (brut) to a little sweeter (demi-sec). Most are made by the Champagne methode, which is called méthode traditionnelle.

And then there are the still wines (vins naturels), which range from very dry (sec) and semi-sweet (demi-sec) to sweet (moelleux). The Chenin Blanc is an amazingly versatile grape.

The Vouvray wines we prefer are the two extremes. Walt likes the sparkling brut — a very dry, Champagne-style wine. I have developed a taste for the still moelleux — sweet whites that are very clean in taste. Walt says the Vouvray brut sparkling wines are not quite in the same category as the best Champagnes, but they are very good in their own right. I say the moelleux wines are out of this world. A lot of people might turn up their noses at such sweet wines, but they have a lot to learn, in my humble opinion.

The place where we buy our Vouvray wines is a far cry from the type of winery you'd find in Napa Valley in California. We went there for the first time in October 2000, when we were staying in a vacation rental (a gîte rural) in Vouvray. It's a working winery run by the Aubert family and located in the Vallée Coquette, a kilometer or two west of the village. Just off the road, there's a small courtyard where you can park your car. The winery itself is built right into a cliff. My pictures will give you a better idea what it's like.

Here's Aubert's brochure/price list. Click your mouse on the pictures to see an enlargement.


  1. Fabulous wine, reasonably priced! We are envious.
    Chris P

  2. Ken, Glad to hear more about Vouvray wines near you. In our stores here on the West Coast of the USA, the only Vouvray we see is the lower quality stuff, pretty insipid really. At the very best shops we might have a choice of demi-sec or sec, but that's about it. I have often wondered what the real wines of the region are like, the ones that never make it out of the country.
    I'd be interested to hear what you think about best matches with food. Are you going to have the sweetest wine with fois gras, as an apo or what? I wonder if there are good matches of Vouvray with cheese. I usually think only red wines with cheese but I know that often a local cheese and a local wine are great together.
    Thanks for the price list too. It's always pleasing to see how reasonable the prices of good local wine can be. We used to have similar prices here in the Northwest, but even here the Oregon Pinot and Washington Merlot prices have gotten above thirty bucks for a good bottle.

  3. Maybe Vouvray wines just don't travel well. I don't understand why Vouvray wine producers, or any other wine producers for that matter, would export low quality wines. They must be smarter than that about opening up new, lucrative markets.

    Or maybe French wine just doesn't taste as good when you are drinking it somewhere other than in France. So-called French food in the U.S. seldom tastes like the food you get in France, I think.

    Goat cheeses are good with dry white wines (Sancerre white with Crottin de Chavignol goat cheese is a prime example). I think semi-sweet or even moelleux white wines can be good with Roquefort or blue cheeses. Like you, I like red wine with cheese, in general. But I'm no expert.

    Yesterday on a food show on the radio (Jean-Pierre Coffe on France Inter) I heard chefs and foie gras producers from Southwestern France saying that red wines are what people down there normally drink with foie gras. When I stayed in a gîte rural in Puy-L'Évêque 10 years ago, the woman who ran the place served us a sweet Gaillac white wine with her duck foie gras. But she was a Parisian who had lived in London for many years before retiring to the Lot area.


  4. we had our foie gras served with white in the southwest.
    And sometimes too sweet for my taste.

  5. We love having our foie gras with a glass of Jurançon (the "moelleux"/mellow one)



    This "sommelier" suggests to have "foie gras" towards the end of the meal, in order to respect the order in which one should drink wines...


  6. At a store in Saint-Aignan called Côté Sud, I bought a special foie gras wine this week and some foie gras 'cuit au torchon' to have with it. The wine label says 'Apéritif aromatisé artisanal' and it's called La Gazouillette. It says 'Spécial accompagnement du Foie-Gras ou Apéritif délicat' and it is produced by Philippe Aurian, 'artisan liquoriste' at Condom-en-Armagnac. It's 11.5% alcohol. We had a taste of it at the shop and it was very nice. We'll have it and the duck foie gras (produced in Cahors) on Christmas Day.

  7. Ken, I love your narratives. Regarding your trip to Vouvray,it reminds me of 1950 when at 20 years old (you do the math) I was in the Loire Valley with my parents. We stopped for the night and our driver (for a 3-tour) brought them a bottle of sparkling Vouvray. I had a bit, and it was not my usual drink in those days. It was delicious, semi-sweet and bubbly. I've never forgotten it and have always loved sparkling Vouvray. Thanks for the memories. Mary Boyken

  8. Hi Mary, Walt has a predilection for the Vouvray brut sparkling. I myself am partial to the sweet still whites from there -- Vouvray moelleux. We enjoyed our foie gras with our friends on Christmas day, and I preferred a Vouvray moelleux 2001 with it. The Gazouillette apéritif wine that I had bought to accompany the foie was good, but maybe a little too sweet for me.

    Happy New Year to you, Mary. Hope to see you in 2006, either here in France or in California. Or both -- that would be nice. Ken


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