16 July 2009

The Aubert winery in Vouvray

My Loire Valley experience started in Vouvray, a wine village just 5 mi. (8 or 9 km) east of the center of Tours on the north bank of the Loire River. If we hadn't decided, almost on the spur of the moment, to spend a vacation week in a gîte rural in Vouvray in October 2000, we would never be living in Saint-Aignan right now. Vouvray is a 45-minute drive from our house.

Vouvray still wines run the gamut from very dry to very sweet (called moelleux, or "mellow", in French), depending on the vintage (i.e., the year) and the vinification method used. Vouvray is also known for good effervescent wines, some made by a old local method that produces fewer bubbles (the wines are pétillants, or semi-sparkling), and others made by the so-called Methode Traditionelle to produce Champagne-style wines (fully sparkling).

Barrels of Vouvray white wines in the Aubert wine cave

The one thing that all Vouvray wines — dry or sweet, still or sparkling — have in common is that they are made exclusively with the juice of a single grape variety, which is the Chenin Blanc. No other grape is authorized by the A.O.C. authority that defines the criteria for Vouvray wine-making and labeling.

Looking back into the Aubert cave, you see walls lined
with racks holding hundreds of bottles of white wine.

The still "sweet" wines of Vouvray — either demi-sec (less-sweet wines to drink as an apéritif or with dinner) or moelleux (very mellow dessert wines) — can age for quite a few years in the bottle. The sparking wines — both styles — are competing with Champagne these days, because Champagne wines have become so expensive. Champagne is made with entirely different grapes, not with Chenin Blanc.

A view from the cellar looking out toward the sales room and daylight.
That's Walt paying for our 12 bottles of Aubert's Vouvray wine.

For people like me, Vouvray is a better choice than most Champagne. The standard Champagne is made from what is called an "assemblage" — a technical term for what we might call a "blend" — of the juices of three grape varieties, which are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. In my case, I find that assemblage sparkling wines like Champagne tend to give me a headache, ruining the pleasure of drinking them.

All those bottles...

Vouvray sparkling wines, made from juice from a single grape, the Chenin Blanc — which is also known locally as Pineau de la Loire — don't have that same negative effect on me. That said, it is also possible to get Champagnes that are made with a single grape variety, the Chardonnay. To me, the Champagnes called « pur chardonnay » are easier on the brain, like the Vouvrays. They are also very easy on the palate.

This is barrel no. 82 — that's not the vintage. I didn't ask
how you decipher the codes on the front of the barrel.

The winery we like to go to for our Vouvray wines is called Jean-Claude et Didier Aubert Viticulteurs and is located in the Vallée Coquette on the western side of the village of Vouvray. The pictures in this topic are ones I took in the Aubert wine "cave" yesterday. In the past, I've posted other pictures of the Aubert winery (see December 2005), from the outside.

Wines are sold in 6-bottle cases in the Loire Valley.
These are stacked up in the front at Aubert's cave.

Prices chez Aubert are very reasonable. Yesterday we bought 6 bottles of Méthode Traditionnelle Brut (the dry sparkling) for 30 euros (at current rates, about $42.00) and 6 bottles of 2008 Demi-Sec (the semi-sweet wine that is good with apéritif foods or dinner) for the same price. Five euros a bottle ($7.00) is inexpensive, given the quality of the wines. We've tried Vouvrays from other producers that sell at significantly higher prices, but we haven't found them to be consistently better than Aubert's wines.

In the past, I've also posted more general topics about Vouvray and neighboring Montlouis and the wines made in both villages, for example in November 2008 and December 2008. Vouvray is a picturesque but not a drop-dead beautiful village. The wines, though, can be stunning.


  1. I think going to Vouvray often starts one's love affair with France.
    A beautiful cave, can't wait to visit!

  2. Hi Dedene, I think my love affair with France started long before I ever set foot in France. And my first séjour was in Aix-en-Provence. Even then, though, Paris was the center of my attention.

    My love affair with the Loire Valley started in Vouvray, that's for sure.

  3. Oh, my mouth is watering for a nice chilled glass of the Vourvray moelleux! And I'd love to be sitting on a stool in your kitchen sipping it while you make some of your delectable zucchini soup.

  4. Hi Susan, we just picked a fresh batch of zucchinis. Come on over.

  5. Thanks for the lesson. Now I understand why I get headaches from some sparkling wines.

  6. I'm with Ginny - I never understood why Champagne gave me headaches. Since I get headaches at dinners where they serve white with one dish and red with another and then another with the cheese, it seems logical that if they are mixing grapes to begin with, that might be the source of the problem.

  7. Ginny and Ellen, I realized the headache source a few years ago. Since Walt really likes Champagne, I tried to like it too but drinking it made my head hurt. Then I discovered "pure Chardonnay" Champagne, called Blanc de Blancs. And after that, Vouvray bubbly, made exclusively with Chenin Blanc. No headaches. And yes, I think the headaches you get from changing over from white to red wine and/or vice-versa are the same phenomenon.


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