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.