The Best Grape in the World, Simply Put!
2015 SAUVION – Vouvray, Loire Valley, France
There’s a certain set of bright, un0aked whites which have so much character you might not mind their subtle asset of residual sugar. Nearly-dry Riesling from Germany or Alsace distracts you with its vibrant acidity. Gewurztraminer has that crazy nose and – along with that – an oily texture that gets you hungry for Choucroute. Now, here comes a barely-sweet 100% Chenin Blanc from Vouvray. How shall we cope?
Vouvray is the name of Chenin’s most famous growing place. Vouvray can happen as bone-dry bubbly. It can happen as bone-dry still wine, too. A super-sweet dessert version takes place when the vintage is right, and I’d prefer that over more famous Sauternes any day of the week.
Somewhere in between THIS is happening. This wine does show a modicum of sweetness but there’s plenty of character to validate. Support the concept with some good chevre (goat cheese) and green apple slices on the side. How about adding toasted walnuts and hazelnuts to the plate, with careless drizzles of honey here and there? Alternatively, grill some halibut and concoct some kind of mango chutney or purée to accompany that fleshy, smoke-affected fish. I promise you: This wine will work.
Chenin Blanc has the unusual, magical quality of pleasing at several levels of wine-rendering. Honey, chalk, marshmallow dust, freshly rained-on foliage, and baking spices happen irresistibly. While I’m often saying this to provoke a lively discussion, I often actually mean what I say when proclaiming:
“Chenin Blanc is the BEST grape in the world.”
Bordeaux also comes in BLANC
2015 ESPRIT de SAINT-SULPICE SAUVIGNON – Bordeaux Blanc, France
Over the past weekend our WineBar menu featured a flight of mostly-French Sauvignon Blanc. Two Sancerres and one Pouilly-Fume represented that grape from the Loire Valley. THIS white from more southerly Bordeaux kicked off the experience. The Loire versions were brighter with lime and flinty urgency, but from Bordeaux we anticipate a different effect, and that’s what makes Sauvignon Blanc one of the greatest of grapes: It expresses a different “voice” based on where it’s grown.
One Bordeaux difference: The local culture’s tradition of adding another grape. Semillon is the usual partner, of which this ‘Sauvignon’ includes 20%. Sauvignon Blanc on its own gives green-ish, herbal racy-ness. Semillon’s role is to round the textures and contribute flavors of (perhaps) pear, fig, and lanolin.
Yet another addition to Bordeaux Blanc is often employed: The barrel. When you buy $20+ examples you might encounter the extra dimension of vanilla richness provided by French oak. Many of these can cost far more, as rendered by the most famous red-producing chateaux, and are interesting aging wines. Grown southeast of the city of Bordeaux in the Entre-Deux-Mers area, this Saint-Sulpice saves us some money by omitting the expensive wooden aging container. Stainless steel tanks were used instead.
Even without the barrel, there is more than the usual richness of fruit and texture happening here. What ingredient confers this more palate-pleasing effect? Vintage 2015. I will declare for not the last time: All 2015 European wines, white and red, with be delicious. Such a blanket summary isn’t usually possible - one region might shine while another falls short depending on local weather – but I haven’t yet encountered an exception.
Here is brilliant raw oyster wine (as depicted above). The fragrance combines the pungency of grapefruit peel with mango tropicality. The mouth is fresh and lively, yet nicely cushioned with silky white fruit flavors. Without your having tasted this wine’s 2014 counterpart as I have, it might be harder to appreciate how good you’ve got it here. Take it from me: This is damn good Bordeaux Blanc!