Monday, December 18, 2006

Not Your Parents' Chenin Blanc: the 2004 La Craie Vouvray

New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov over at his excellent blog The Pour recently posted a story on the underappreciated and un-fashionable varietal chenin blanc. Just so Eric doesn't feel too lonely in chenin blanc heaven, I wanted to post this recommendation for a chenin blanc from Vouvray in France: the excellent QPR 2004 La Craie Vouvray (Chronicle Wine Cellar, $7.95).

This is not your parents' chenin blanc. I have some pretty vivid memories of large jugs of wine labelled "chenin blanc" entering my childhood home--you know the ones with the little loopy handle at the top and the metal screw cap. (My parents would want you to know that they don't drink this anymore!) Every 40 something wine blogger out there, and most every 40 something wine enthusiast can probably recall a similar vignette from their own past. Some of us even got our start drinking the stuff.

But chenin blanc is a versatile grape that seems particularly good at drawing up the influences from the soil up into its root system, spreading them out into the fruit. Because chenin blanc is typically not manipulated very much in the processing of the grapes, all those appellation nuances come through in the finished project. Take this 2004 La Craie.

Named after the chalky soils on which the grapes are grown (craie is chalk in French), this pale lemon wine had enticing crisp citrus aromas. Sipping the wine brought out more citrus and green apple flavors, with a hint of a sweet impression as the last drops slid down. Despite the sweet aftertaste, this was a crisp, dry wine. But now swirl it in the glass and smell. That's right: crushed chalk, just like in your first grade classroom. Take another sip: now there is an aftertaste of crushed chalk in your mouth, too. As with all white wines, these more subtle flavors will disappear if you serve the wine too cold.

The versatile chenin blanc grape produced, in this case, an equally versatile wine that would go with turkey, seafood, Chinese or Thai take-out, and salads. Expand your horizons and keep some of these grapes from falling into Eric's clutches. Better yet, buy some of this inexpensive, high quality wine and use the rest of your $20 bill to buy a chance to have dinner with Eric through the raffle for Menu for Hope III, a great event to support the UN World Food Programme. If you win, you'll have one more thing to talk about!

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