Yesterday we did something we don't do often, and we went to a place we hadn't been to in several years. It was Vouvray, where our 17-year-old Loire Valley adventure started in October of the year 2000. That was when we first spent time in the region and stayed for a week in a gîte rural in Vouvray that we really liked.
This is the first Loire Valley winery we ever visited, back in 2000.
In 2001, we spent two weeks with friends in the same gîte (a two-bedroom house with a big open kitchen and living room, as well as a huge grassy front yard). We continued exploring the Loire Valley. In 2002, we decided to see if we could find a house to buy in France, with eventual retirement in mind. We had been living and working in California for more than 15 years. We started our French house search in the Loire Valley, and it wasn't a long search. In fact, four days after we arrived in the area as house-hunters in December 2002, we had bought a house. Now we've lived here since June 2003.
The winery and caves are built into a steep hillside.
One of the places that we stumbled upon in October 2000 was Jean-Claude Aubert's winery, located in an area of Vouvray that's called La Vallée Coquette. Coquette means "pretty" or "charming" and the valley has an element of that, but it's mainly agricultural- and rural-looking. That's one of the things I like about it — it's not prettified or pretentious. It has authenticity. Here's an old post of mine showing the winery from the inside and giving more information about the wines.
Fall colors at the Aubert winery in Vouvray's Vallée Coquette
The point of going to a winery in Vouvray is, of course, to buy some wine. If you don't know Vouvray wines, you might be surprised when you taste them. They tend toward the sweet, and they are some of the most prized white wines in France. They can age beautifully over many years. The only grape allowed in Vouvray and its wines is Chenin Blanc, which is also known locally as Pineau de la Loire.
Grape-growing and wine-making are agricultural endeavors, and it shows.
What we bought yesterday was six bottles of dry sparkling Vouvray, and two bottles each of three still (not sparkling) Vouvray wine — dry, semi-sweet (demi-sec), and "mellow" (moelleux, meaning "sweet" or "dessert" wine). The price for these 12 bottles of fine Vouvray white wine came to less than 80 euros — considerably less than $100 U.S. Yesterday, the two customers ahead of us, a couple from Brittany, completely filled up the trunk of their car with cases of wine and headed home with it all.
Houses and other buildings like these are called "troglodyte" — cave dwellings.
We'll enjoy the sparkling wines over the winter. Vouvray sparkling wines are made by the same process as Champagne but with a different grape varietal. And they sell for about half the price of the most inexpensive Champagnes, which are not inherently better, just different. The sweeter still Vouvrays will be good with, for example, foie gras and figues confites (duck liver and candied figs) at Christmastime, and with holiday desserts including cheese like Roquefort and our local goat cheeses.
Here's Walt maneuvering our Citroën car to get it out of the winery's tight courtyard.
Over the years, I've done a number of posts about Vouvray, and we used to go over there (an hour's drive) more often than we do nowadays. It was fun to see the place again, and to take a few photos around the Aubert winery.