Monday, June 18, 2007

The Loire's Answer to Summer

Summertime. Even if living isn't easy, it sometimes seems easier with the long summer twilights, cooking outside, and lots of entertaining. Even finding summer wines can be easy, as long as you remember that they, too, should reflect the season. But sometimes a "simple summer sipper" is not what you're looking for. You want a wine that fits summer's easy-going mood, but has a little more brains than a quaffer. That's when I reach for a white wine from the Vouvray appellation of France's Loire Valley.

Vouvray wines are produced from 100% chenin blanc grapes, the marvelously versatile white varietal that can make dazzling dry, off-dry, and sweet wines in both sparkling and still varieties. The varietal seems especially able to soak up the influence of the soils and earth in which it was grown. In the Loire, most of these soils are full of limestone and minerals, which imparts a nice, stony edge to the grapes that are grown there. This stony, mineral-inflected profile of a good Vouvray is what makes for a refreshing summer white with brains.

I recently had a dry vouvray that had excellent QPR and was a terrific summer white: the 2005 Champalou Vouvray ($14.99, Mission Wines; available from many merchants for between $10 and $17). I've had this wine twice, and it impressed me each time with its aromas of lemon blossom and minerals and its summery straw color. It is intensely aromatic, but even more flavorful, with pure lemon essence, herbal, and stone notes. I found this wine was perfectly situated on the cusp between dry and off-dry, so it would be perfect for Indian food or other highly flavorful or spicy food. Try it with some tandoori shrimp skewers done up on the grill with a mint and cilantro pesto dipping sauce for a perfectly easy, and perfectly delicious, summer meal.

Catherine and Didier Champalou's wine-making efforts are profiled over at the Wine Doctor if you would like to find out more about them. They make some excellent value Vouvrays, and are a producer to keep your eye out for if you are looking for a reliably good producer.

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