Vouvray….it’s a lovely word to say. A french wine, it is named for a region, not a variety. It comes from the Loire Valley. That’s the Val de Loire on the map below.
The Loire Valley wine region spans 300 miles along the Loire River from Sancerre to Nantes and is broken into 4 very distinct regions from west to east:
- The Pays Nantais – closest to the Atlantic that has a maritime influence.
- Anjou-Saumur – a little further inland
- Touraine – even further east
- The Upper Loire – this area furthest east and inland has a more continental climate and follows the Loire River as it begins to curve south.
The region historically was known as the Valley of the Kings and the river is dotted with tremendous chateaus that are show stoppers. We will focus on the Touraine region which is sometime called the “Garden of France”.
When we speak about the Touraine, there are two primary grapes that come to mind:
- Cabernet Franc which you find in Chinon, Bourgueil and St. Nicolas de Bourgueil.
- Chenin Blanc well known in Montlouis-sur-Loire and probably the most well known region in the Touraine, Vouvray.
You have likely seen a Vouvray on a shelf at a wine shop. It is perhaps the best known of the Touraine appellations. It sits just north of the Loire River East of the city of Tours.
Vouvray was one of France’s first Appellations, in 1936.
The area in the “Garden of France” has many Chateaus and gardens. Here is a quick visual trip…
Chateau Valmer (pictured above) does make a Vouvray, but sadly, I was not able to find a bottle. Perhaps a trip to the beautiful Château, built at the beginning of the 16th century is in order.
Styles of Vouvray
Vouvray is a wine of many variations. It is made of Chenin Blanc, which sometimes in the region is call Pineau de la Loire. You will find it both Sparkling and Still.
Sparkling wines, known here as “fines bulles”, may be made in the Methode Traditionelle – which is the method used in Champagne. You might find these called Cremant de Loire. It can also be made Pétillant (Pét Nat), just slightly bubbly in the Method Ancestral.
In style it can be Brut or dry, or Demi-Sec, which is sweet.
They like their fines bulles here, with sparkling being 60% of the production. And, they like to keep it here, only 1 in every 20 bottles of Loire Bubbles make it out of the country, as opposed to the still wines, where 1 of every 3 is sold out of France.
In the still wines you have a variety of sweetness levels from Dry, called Sec through Tendre or Sec-Tendre (off dry) to Demi-Sec which is definitely sweet to Moelleux which is a sweet dessert wine.
It can be difficult to tell which sweetness level you are getting. The residual sugar level is not written on the bottle. Sometimes, a wine will specify sec or demi-sec, but it’s easy to be fooled, as I was.
Choosing a variety of Vouvrays
I went shopping for Vouvrays. The sparkling was simple…it was the only one available. Then for the stills I wanted a Sec and a Demi-Sec. I found a house that had both. But I wanted to expand and choose more than one house, so I chose another that I believed was Sec, but was not labeled. I ended up with a wine that was actually sweeter than the Demi-Sec I chose! Lesson learned, and now I share that lesson with you! On to the Wines
Maison Bougrier Pure Loire Sparkling Vouvray
This wine is made in the Methode Traditionelle. They age on the yeast for 24 months. I noted that they age “sur lattes” which means stacked on their sides. The wine is 12.5% abv and it runs a reasonable $19.99 SRP.
Famille Bougrier “V” Vouvray Grande Réserve 2018
This wine, the Grande Réserve “V” Vouvray from Famille Bougrier, is aged for several months in wood. This makes the wine fuller and richer than the regular Bougrier “V” which is made in stainless steel. This wine is 11% abv and I picked it up for $14.99.
Clos Chapon Vourvray Demi-Sec
This Demi-Sec wine does have thermometer graphic on the back of the bottle to indicate the sweetness level. Of course I knew I was getting a sweeter wine as it listed Demi-Sec on the label. The Clos Chapon Vouvray is 13% abv and runs $14.99.
Tasting and Pairing
I shopped in the afternoon, looking to find things to pair with all the styles. Across the board, I knew the basic flavor profiles would include: lemon, apricot, pear, apple, honey and camomile.
I settled on a cheese plate to cover all the styles with fontina, camembert, goat cheese, dried apricots, honey, apple, pear, prosciutto, and salami.
I made a crab salad to pair with the dry wine, which turned out to be the sparkling. We tested some Thai green curry and Indian Palak Paneer with Rajmah Dal as well as pork chops with apples.
All of the food paired beautifully. Michael was very happy. He tends to avoid sparkling wines, as he doesn’t find them very flavorful. All of these wines were great for his palate. All of these wines are extremely sipable on their own in addition to being great with the food.
A couple of standouts. The crab salad (which was just olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper), went best with the sparkling. You want to go dry with this pairing. The Thai Green Curry was best with the Bougrier Reserve, due to the sugar level. This dish was a tad spicy and the sweetness balanced that. The Palak Paneer, went best again with the sparkling. Oh and dessert! We had lemon bars which were genius with the Pure Loire Brut!
The French #Winophiles on Vouvray
The French Winophiles will gather on December 21st on Twitter at 8:00 am Pacific (that’s 11 am Eastern Standard time, so if you are on the East coast you can sleep in a little!) to talk about Vouvray. Just follow the #Winophiles hashtag. You can always join the chat, even if you don’t have a blog.
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Pairing a School Assignment with a #Winophiles Project: Moqueca + Gautier Vouvray Argilex 2012”
- Lynn at Savor the Harvest shares “Why I Chose This Wine as A Holiday Favorite”
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Creamy Clam Dip with a Sauvion Vouvray“
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish shares “Monmousseau Ammonite Vouvray: Gussying-Up an Ad Hoc Holiday Feast“
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator shares “Carême Organic Vouvray and Lunch at Chateau de Pray“
- Nicole at Somm’s Table shares “Champalou Vouvray Brut and a Very Lazy Cheese Night”
- Jane at Always Ravenous shares “Vouvray with an Indian-Inspired Dinner”
- Linda at My Full Wineglass shares “Still or sparkling, versatile Vouvray shows its style (#Winophiles)”
- David at Cooking Chat shares “Spicy Lentil Soup with Wine Pairing”
- Susannah at Avvinare shares “Vouvray’s Singular Moelleux Wines”
- Payal at Keep the Peas shares “A Birthday and a Vouvray”
- Liz at What’s in That Bottle? shares “Va-Va-Va-Vouvray! Get to Know These White Wines from the Loire”
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Vouvray Pairs with Cream”
Check out all the great articles on Vouvray and different ways to pair it!