30 Second Wine Advisor: Vouvray, yay and nay

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Vouvray, yay and nay

How do I love Vouvray? Let me count the ways:

It's an iconic wine of France's Loire Valley with its beautiful chateaus. It's pure Chenin Blanc, a grape that arguably reaches its peak in the Loire. Well-made, it produces clean, fresh wines of indisputable elegance and transparency, wines that at their best can show a remarkable combination of fresh fruit and stony minerality in elegant balance.

And it comes in a variety of styles. Depending on weather conditions during the growing season, and to some extent on wine-making choices, Vouvray can vary from bone-dry to slightly sweet to moelleux ("marrow-like," a Loire term for rich and off-dry), to quite sweet indeed.

And that's why Vouvray can frustrate me, too. From year to year, from producer to producer, the label rarely if ever describes the style or sweetness level of the wine in the bottle. The only way to know for sure whether your Vouvray is sweet or dry or someplace in-between is to pull the cork and taste the wine.

If you're planning dinner and looking for a wine to match your meal, it can be irritating if your main course really wants a dry, steely white, and your Vouvray turned out to be moelleux instead.

You can work around this issue easily enough, in the age of the Internet, by going online and digging up tasting reports, or posting a question about the wine on our WineLovers Discussion Group or other online forums.

But to be honest, Vouvray in particular, and Chenin Blanc in general, makes such a versatile, food-friendly wine that it doesn’t much matter. As long as your dish doesn’t demand a bone-dry white, your Vouvray should go well with traditional white-wine matches whether your specific choice is quite sweet or just barely so.

By way of example, by coincidence I tasted this week's featured wine, Sauvion 2009 Vouvray, one year to the day after I had tasted the same firm’s 2008.

Comparing my notes after the fact, it became obvious that the 2009 was significantly sweeter than the 2008. Neither was bone-dry or dessert-sweet, and both enjoyed sufficient acidity to hold the fruit sugars in line. But my notes on the flavor component reflected a perceptible change.

In my review of the 2008, I wrote, "Quite sweet on the first taste, lush tropical fruit, but sharp acidity takes over in mid-palate, diminishing the impression of sweetness. A hint of stony minerality begins to show as fruit fades in a very long finish."

The 2009, in contrast (reviewed in full below), got this comment: " ... medium-bodied and rather sweet, but it's the crisp sweetness of fruit, not the cloying sweetness of a soft drink."

You pay your money and take your choice; and if you're matching the wine to dinner, you'll do well to taste in advance. But happily, all the choices lead to tasting pleasure.

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Today's Tasting Report

Sauvion 2009 Vouvray ($11.99)


Transparent straw color. A whiff of juicy grapefruit at first adds a touch of spearmint. Flavor follows the nose, medium-bodied and rather sweet, but it's the crisp sweetness of fruit, not the cloying sweetness of a soft drink. Moderate 12 percent alcohol enhances its utility as a table wine. U.S. importer: W.J. Deutsch & Sons Ltd., Harrison, N.Y. (April 8, 2011)

FOOD MATCH: Vouvray makes a natural pair with ripe cheeses, chicken or mild fish. On our dinner table, the richness of a tarragon velouté in poulet l'estragon makes an especially effective pairing. The sweeter styles also serve well with hot-and-spicy fare. Last year, we successfully paired the 2008 vintage with a spicy Thai-style fish curry. For an intriguing selection of appropriate regional recipes go to the winery's English-language page and hover your cursor over the "recipes" link to get a clickable list.

VALUE: Simple Vouvray remains a good value, and it's hard to beat this on on quality-price ratio at $12. Better still when you find it in some markets in the $8 to $10 range.

"Vouvray" = "Voov-ray"
"Sauvion" = "So-vee-awN"

The Sauvion home page defaults to a French version. To view it in English, click the British flag icon use this direct link.

Find vendors and check prices for Sauvion Vouvray on Wine-Searcher.com.

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