When first I peered onto Vigneau-Chevreau’s website, this well-known motto of Vouvray’s famed Chenin Blanc grape greeted me. Translated, it means, “I gladden the heart!” Well, I couldn’t help but smile, for there is hardly a better description. From the moment a good Loire Valley Chenin clings to my nose, a slow, knowing smile spreads across my face. This is gonna be excellent, I think. Because with a well-made Chenin, you somehow get it all…
Though a term typically used when referring to French pastries, for me, Chenin Blanc always brings to mind ‘mille fueilles’: a thousand layers (or leaves). For when a Chenin is made just so, it truly is a continuous peeling back of flavors and aromas, emotion and dimension, in order to touch the center of this understated grape. And when you feel some approximation to the core, this modest varietal from the Loire Valley of France can swell even the hardest of hearts.
Chenin Blanc can be produced five ways: Sec (dry), Sec-Tendre (slightly sweeter but still dry), Demi-Sec (semi-sweet), Moelleux (sweet dessert and often sees botrytis), Péttilant (sparkling). In this region of the world, vintage is crucial—the weather can vary drastically from one year to the next, altering the outcome and style of the Chenin that is produced. Some years lend themselves to dry, even severe grapes, whereas others are wrapped in a blanket of botrytis giving way to rich, honeyed harvests. Although the latter is the style most revered, and certainly the most age worthy, a superb sec is a deliciously wonderful surprise to come by… so when it does, it’s memorable.
That’s how I felt when I tasted the 2007 Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Sec Cuvée Silex. In the glass alone, it sat upright with dignity, demanding respect. Its straw-like, golden hue was not in the mood for passersby. It induced thought. And though this luminary liquid established that it was not one to be scoffed at, the only thing stiff or severe about this dry Chenin was its pronounced mineral backbone (echoing the chalky soils of Vouvray) and sure-handed acidity on the palate. The nose promised elegance, demonstrating hushed glances towards wildflower honey and orchard fruit. In the mouth, a tart, green apple surfaced but was softened quickly, allowing for a generous mid-palate to form. Acid assured me that this would be delightful to pair with several foodstuffs—particularly goat cheeses, pork loins, and seafood with cream sauces.
For around $20, there is hardly a better sec from Vouvray out there at this price! And, dovetailing the last posting, this is from a biodynamic vineyard.
So go… give your heart a few extra beats.