The Vouvray wine cellars in the River Cliffs. Photo Claes Lofgren.

ETA 11/7/08

I'm starting to think that Vouvray is America's favorite French white wine . Nobody seems to be able to get enough of it.

Of course, there are a lot of reasons for this, not the least being that Vouvray is the ideal white for many people because it is not steely, steely Dry with a big D, but rather dry with a small d. It is made from 100% Chenin Blanc.

Bob and I went hunting for a Vouvray last May in the Loire Valley. We did our homework first. Domaine Vigneau Chevreau kept popping up:

La Revue du Vin de France:
"This estate, which is biodynamique (organic) is distributed over several types of soil which permits assemblages of wine which play right into the hands of the Chenin Blanc grape with its velvety acidity so typical of a good Vouvray. Vigneau Chevreau makes wine with lots of textural finesse and generous minerality..."

Jacqueline Friedrich in her new book, The Wines of France puts Vigneau Chevreau on a short list of her favorite Vouvrays.

I fixed a rendezvous at the Domaine and was impressed immediately by the impeccable cellars.Vouvray is planted in tuffeau, a limestone rock. Tuffeau is the same white rock that many of the chateaux of the Loire are made from. The rock was excavated from the land leaving behind cavernous caves which the Vouvrillons put to good use as wine chais (barrel storage rooms). The caves are very old and snake around for hundreds of meters underground.

The Vigneau Chevreau has been around since 1875, been worked by 5 generations. The estate is now 25 hectares spread across several communes permitted to put Vouvray on their labels.

The estate has been certified biodynamique since 1995 and there is not one biogrower I've talked to who has regretted it. The wines are just plain better, the roots are hardier and the environment is protected for future generations.

It takes a huge financial and educational commitment on the part of the grower to go bio. I admire the growers with the courage to take it on. As an importer I can say the practice is becoming more prevalent and more and more, it makes a statement about how important quality is to you.

Quality is very important at Domaine Vigneau Chevreau and it was instantly apparent in the wines. When I landed in the Domaine's cellars, I'd already had a full day of tasting Vouvray and it wasn't hard to figure out from whom I'd be asking for an allocation.

When you have a glass of Silex, lemons and minerals will burst from the glass. The flavors are pure. The grapes are hand-harvested and the grapes are carefully sorted to ensure that only the ripe, healthy grapes make it into the bottle.

I think I'll pour myself a glass right now. How about a little Vouvray for you? Cynthia Hurley

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