This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2007 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20070613.php.
Geology on the label
The appearance of "Silex" on a wine label will likely inspire a chuckle from anyone who remembers this brand name for an old-fashioned drip coffee pot.
But there's no caffeine in today's featured wine from Bernard Fouquet's Domaine des Aubuisières "Cuvée de Silex," a Vouvray from the Loire Valley's Touraine region. It's not named for a coffee maker, and it doesn't come from Northern California's Silicon Valley either. This Silex takes its name from geology, not caffeine.
The French "Silex" ("See-lehss") is a pure form of finely ground silica - in other words, sand. The Chenin Blanc grapes that Fouquet uses in "Cuvée de Silex" are grown in three vineyards noted for their "siliceous" soil filled with glassy, sandy bits of quartz and flint.
The Loire, along with stretches of the Danube in Austria, the Mosel in Germany and the Rhine in Germany and Alsace, is particularly known for white wines that manifest their geology in a crystalline transparency that reveals minerality along with fruit.
Quite a few wineries around the world highlight the wine's connection with the earth by choosing rocky and stony names for specific bottlings or even the winery itself; in France, the roughly synonymous "Pierres" and "Roche" often appear on wines that celebrte terroir.
But only a few of the most rock-happy producers go so far as to name their wines after arcane geological terms. Domaine de l'Ecu in Muscadet Sèvre et Maine may take this to the extreme with its separately bottled "Expression de Granit," "Expression de Gneiss" and "Expression d'Orthogneiss," each named for the dominant stone in its vineyard and thus facilitating intriguing side-by-side geology tastings such as I conducted in the April 24, 2004 Wine Advisor, "That's gneiss!"
Fouquet comes close to l'Ecu for geology geekiness, though, with "Cuvée de Silex." It's a splendid Vouvray, even if the 2005 in its youth speaks more vividly of fruit than stone. Give it time. My tasting report is below.
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Domaine des Aubuisières 2005 "Cuvée de Silex" Vouvray ($15.99)
Transparent straw color. Honeydew melon aromas add hints of pineapple and a homeopathic dose of banana oil. Medium-bodied and dry, flavors follow the nose, bright and juicy with fresh-fruit acidity, pineapple and snappy mixed citrus in a long finish. Fruit somewhat overshadows a touch of stony "silex" minerality in the ripe 2005 vintage, but a hint of that lovely Loire minerality is in there. U.S. importer: Weygandt-Metzler, Unionville, Pa. (Feb. 21, 2007)
FOOD MATCH: Vouvray is a great pick with fish and seafood, and its gentle sweetness is a virtue in partnership with spicier fare. In short, it's a natural with Cajun and Creole seafood dishes such as my pick, red snapper meunière on a Creole gumbo with rice.
VALUE: This fine Vouvray is more than competitive in the lower to middle teens.
WHEN TO DRINK: It's fruity and luscious now, but assuming good storage conditions, Chenin Blanc from Vouvray has outstanding aging potential, and it's fair to assume this one will develop much more complexity - and more evident minerality - with a few years in the bottle.
WEB LINK: Bernard Fouquet's winery Website is published in French and what appears to be computer-translated English. Click here for the English-language home page:
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