Vouvray, the picturesque french wine region on the northern bank of the Loire River, is known the world-over for its elegant, eponymous white wines made from Chenin Blanc grapes. The wines’ aromas are incredible, evoking blooming orchards alongside stony brooks, with notes of acacia flowers, citrus, and ripe apricots, balanced by high acidity and a long mineral finish.
Not only do Vouvrays smell and taste of spring, they pair beautifully with the produce and cooking of the season. Their versatility complements everything from peas, asparagus, and morels to egg dishes, fresh herbs, cream sauces, veal, lamb, and poultry. So if you’re looking for something new to pair with spring fare, and you enjoy aromatic whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, and Riesling, Vouvray is worth a serious look.
Limestone terroir makes the wine
The Vouvray region’s excellent track record with Chenin Blanc is due in part to tuffeau, the porous, chalky limestone that dominates the terroir of the Loire Valley, and from which the area’s fairy tale castles are built. With regard to viticulture, tuffeau beneficially retains water, encourages vines to dig deep into the earth, and imbues grapes with signature mineral undertones.
A Vouvray’s quality is wholly dependent on the quality of the Chenin Blanc used to make it; these wines are made in the vineyard, not the cellar. Some people even call them “naked” wines, since there is very little manipulation of the grapes after they’re picked. It’s no wonder that the region’s best winemakers are its most careful and attentive farmers.
Look for quality producers and vintages
A giant chasm exists between the style and character of high-quality and commercial Vouvrays. High-quality Vouvray is an essay in clarity, complexity, and liveliness; commercial Vouvray often tastes like confectioners’ sugar stirred into old apple juice. So be sure to look for winemakers who consistently produce outstanding Vouvrays, such as Huet, Foreau, Champalou, Domaine des Aubuisières, Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, and Chidaine.
Vintage also matters when buying Vouvray because the wines are so dependent on the quality and character of the Chenin Blanc harvest. Over the past decade, the 2002, 2005, and 2010 vintages were the best, followed closely in quality by the 2003, 2006, and 2009 vintages. Look for Vouvray bottled during any of those years and you won’t be disappointed.