Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are arguably the most well-known white grape varietals in the wine world. Sancerre, an A.O.C. within the Loire Valley, is known for producing some of the finest Sauvignon Blancs available. The fresh and crisp acidity and abundant citrus and complex mineral character typical of Sauvignon Blanc produced in this and other parts of the Loire Valley might be well deserved; nevertheless the Loire Valley’s principal white grape varietal is Chenin Blanc (Pinot de la Noire).
The Vouvray appellation d’origine contrôlée (A.O.C) within the Loire Valley is recognized for producing some of the best Chenin Blanc in the world. Chenin Blanc first appeared in the region of Vouvray during the fourth century and it remains the only grape (other than a small amount of Arbois) grown in this region. There are 180 winegrowers in Vouvray cultivating vines on a combined total of over 2000 hectares. Together they produce over 110,000 hectoliters of sparkling and still Vouvray annually. The versatility of this white grape (it can be used to make sparkling and still wines) and its broad flavor profile (it can be drier or sweeter depending on whether it is a Vouvray Sec, Vouvray Demi Sec or a Vouvray Moelleux) make it an ideal food pairing candidate.
A multi-course dinner at The Pavilion in Union Square Park in New York City on September 12, 2017 highlighted the different flavor profiles as well as the adaptability of Vouvray to a range of culinary preparations. The place and the comfortably warm waning summer night were both an optimal venue and a perfect time of the year to enjoy the myriad styles of Vouvray.
Vouvray Sec tends to be fresh and balanced, with mellow acidity and notes of ripe lemon, orange, pear and almond. This makes Vouvray Sec an ideal pairing choice for raw and lightly seasoned seafood. The acidity and citrus flavors of Vouvray Sec are present but they are delicate enough to enhance rather than potentially overpower these dishes.
As a result, a Domaine de la Robiniere, Vincent et Julien Raimbault, Bel Air, 2014 complemented a tuna tartare seamlessly. The acidity and citrus character of this Vouvray Sec enhanced the subtle sweetness and the light and delicate flavors of the raw tuna.
Meanwhile an organic salmon and snapper ceviche was accompanied by a Domaine Vigneau Chevreau, Cuvee Silex, 2015 while a refreshing floral and citrus, sparkling Damien Pinon, Brut de Brut brought out the creamy and slightly earthy elements in a butternut risotto.
Vouvray Demi Sec lie in the mid-range between the drier Vouvray Sec and the sweet Vouvray Moelleux and they are defined by rich notes of sweet and ripe apricot, peach and red apple. However there is also a subtle crispness and acidity that balances the sweet fruit character. This gives Vouvray Demi Sec enough “weight” and richness to pair with meat and other more “substantial” dishes.
The acidity in a Francois Pinon, Les Trois Argiles, 2015 balanced the pungency, the richness and the earthy elements of a duck and mushroom course while the measure of sweetness in the wine harmonized with the mild citrus aspects of the dish. A Bernard et Arnaud Herivault, Domaine d Orfeuilles, Les Coudraies, 2015 was a lovely complement to both a stuffed turkey and a zucchini tagliatelle. The duo were fine choices given the coming transition at the time from summer to fall.
Turkey is a comparably light meat with subdued and slightly pungent flavors. The balance of acidity and sweetness of the was just what was needed for this course. The wine was also light and crisp enough to pair with the mild vegetable-based pasta. The crisp and acidic element in the Vouvray Demi Sec also made it a good complement to a branzino a la plancha because it added ripe fruit-driven and zesty flavors to the mild fish.
Likewise the citrus and mineral notes inherent in another sparkling wine, a Jean Michel Gautier, Domaine de la Racauderie Brut worked well with another creamy course, a dessert of panna cotta. Meanwhile, a third sparkling, a Champalou enhanced the sweet and fruity flavors in a tart tatin.
A Domaine Huet, Le Mont, 2003, a Vouvray Moelleux representing the sweetest category of Vouvray styles, with rich and ripe notes of apricots, oranges, candied green apples and pears, as well as chamomile and honey broadened the fruity and jammy dimensions of the traditional French dessert. The adaptability of Vouvray to a wide variety of ingredients as well as to different methods of culinary preparation potentially make it a wine for all seasons.