So here we go again… today’s destination Vouvray!
What do you know about Vouvray- not much? GREAT! That means I’ll sound super smart :). Vouvray is an AOC found within the larger AOC Touraine of the Loire Valley. Legally it is always made with 100% chenin blanc- but it can be anything from sparkling to dry, sweet to creamy, and everything in between. Vouvray is located north of the Loire River where the climate temperatures shift between continental and maritime, giving the vines different growing seasons each year, and therefore creating radical characteristic changes in chenin blanc. We have talked a little bit about chenin blanc in the region Anjou, however in Vouvray it is the soil changes from Anjou, the vines grow atop the riverside tuffeau. And of course when we talk about making chenin blanc we have to mention the residual sugar.
Residual Sugar, at a basic level, is the amount of sugar remaining after fermentation is completed. It is something that can be determined at the time of harvest. If the grapes are harvested with a high degree of sugar density they will most likely have a higher degree of residual sugar. Sugar in the grapes is measured by the density of the grape juice using Baumé (french), Brix (american) or Oechsle (german) measurements. Each measure is a bit different, ie. 1° Brix is roughly 1% alcohol, 12° Baumé produces roughly 12% alcohol, and in the german system you have to be quite the mathematician … and unfortunately I am not that. Basically, we need to understand that the Baumé measurements are taken before harvest and can help determine when to harvest, what wine the producer will make, how much yeast at fermentation, and the list goes on… Lets move on also, before our heads start to hurt…
We went to Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet for our Vouvray tasting. This dad and son combination is the eighth generation of winegrowers in Vouvray, making the whole range of chenin blanc. We were lucky enough to meet up with Nicolas, the son, for our tasting and he showed us around the cave. Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet is 14 hectares and everything on the vines is done manually by hand. Fermentation is done with natural yeasts, there is no chapitalization (thank goodness), and no malolatic fermentation. We care about the malolatic fermentation because often when we have wines with a high residual sugar the acidity can help balance the flavors. You will see what I mean in a minute.
This Domaine actually has their caves built into the sides of the hill under tuffeau (rock type found mainly in the Loire). Here is a picture showing the limestone then a layer of flint- creating porous ground for the grapes to grow but also, the grapes have to work extremely hard to find nutrients at deeper levels through the flint layer. When you touch the wall you can see how soft the limestone is and then how hard the flint layer it. The flint layer was extremely small, only 2 maybe 3 inches thick, but extremely hard. The other thing was seeing and touching the fossilized river bottom shells found in the vineyards. It is always something I hear about, but my mind goes to pictures of dinosar fossils :), it is nice to put a picture to the name.
So, the wine… We tasted in pairs- same wines, just with changing vintages. In general, Nicolas explained to us that it is the vines that dictate the wines produced that year, based in part by the Baumé measurements. Meaning that he does not produce dry wines if the vines produce grapes for sweet wines and vise versa. Again, Nicolas talked extremely fast and in French, so the tasting notes are not what they might have been, my apologies.
Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet Vouvray 2008 Sec
Notes: 100% chenin blanc, 13,5% alcohol, 2 grams residual sugar, light gold/ yellow in glass, smells of fresh fruit, lightly creamy, light and refreshing on mouth, lingers.
Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet Vouvray 2009 Sec
Notes: 100% chenin blanc, missed the alcohol percentage, 4 grams residual sugar, similar in color to 2008 with a similar nose, really changed on palate- higher acidity with more fruit, generally appreciated more than 2008.
Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet Vouvray 2007 Demi-Sec
Notes: 100% chenin blanc, 22 grams residual sugar, yellow, golden bright hues, super balanced on palate, green apple, fruit forward, fresh and crispy, long lasting.
Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet Vouvray 2005 Demi-Sec
Notes: 100% chenin blanc, 25 grams residual sugar, super (yes I use super a lot, it sounds the same in both languages) golden yellow, expressive nose, but nothing distinct, needs more time in bottle to be really great, high acidity. Definitely a wine to wait another 10 years.
Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet Vouvray 2011 Moelleux
Notes: 100% chenin blanc, 13% alcohol, 55 grams residual sugar, honey fruit, dried apricots, high acidity, little too much sweetness for my personal taste, high acidity makes me think it needs LOTS of time in the bottle to settle.
Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet Vouvray 2003 Moelleux
Notes: 100% chenin blanc, missed the alcohol percentage, 55 grams residual sugar (same as 2011), more typical of what my head thinks as moelleux, yet softer than the 2011, honey and beeswax on nose.
Et voila, Vouvray! Next stop… Sancerre!