Thursday, January 16, 2014

2008 Château de Montfort Vouvray Demi-sec

light scent of wood -- apple
green apple skins, marshmallow
should it be this woody?
zesty acidity at end -- 12.5% alcohol

Vouvray is the name of the town in the Loire Valley (the castles! the cathedrals! Joan of Arc! Leonardo da Vinci!) where Vouvray, the wine, is produced. Almost no grapes but chenin blanc are grown around the town, which makes chenin blanc (wait for it) the grape of Vouvray. Like riesling, it is a variety known both for sweetness and high acidity. This explains, no? -- the wine's whiff of marshmallow, along with flavors and scents of green apples and apple skins.

(That both sweetness and acidity should appear in one natural package, the grape, and therefore in a drink made simply from the grape is really very miraculous. The entire soft drink industry is devoted to reproducing this same flavor profile, and we all do likewise for ourselves when we concoct other refreshing, sweet-tart things -- lemonade, punches, the large category of cocktails called "sours," my favorite beer.)

I deem the wine "woody," and ask whether it should have tasted "as woody as it seemed." My imagination might be running riot, or I might actually be bright enough to identify a barrel-aged wine when I savor one. But who will tell me for sure? Winemakers are so cagey in what they reveal. I wonder if they are forever protecting trade secrets, or if they simply enjoy maintaining an air of mystery about the divine process, or if they assume certain bits of knowledge are so obvious as to require no elucidation. Of this one Vouvray, we may learn that

the grapes are picked quickly and transferred immediately to the sorting table at the chais [sic? -- chai means above-ground wine storage room], followed by pneumatic pressing into temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Fermentation begins slowly, with temperatures rarely above 16°C, so that it is approximately 60 days before the desired level of residual sugar in balance with the hallmark acidity of Vouvray is accomplished. The wine is aged on its lees for approximately 6 months following a cold stabilization and then bottled

Ah, but the wine is aged on its lees, in what sort of receptacle? In that steel tank, or in the oak barrels I suspect? Perhaps we'll just relax, and let pass the anxious questions. Instead, we'll remember that chenin blanc is the one remaining noble grape -- at least, some people declare it so -- we haven't studied yet. To rectify that situation, we will be satisfied to go right to some pleasing paragraphs on "Vouvray: a chenin blanc for the ages," at Here, we'll learn the rudiments. Such as, that a demi-sec like our Château de Montfort above is made in the "prototypical" Vouvray style, sweet-crisp, exactly half way between sec (dry) and tendre (less dry), and mouelleux (sweet -- or liquoreux, even sweeter) and pétillant (sparkling). Did we further know that fine, remarkably affordable Vouvrays can age for a hundred years, thanks to the preservative properties of their sugar and acidity? No, we did not? Then, by all means, keep reading.'s Vouvray authority, Mr. Stephen George, is very good.

 Image of the Château de Chenonceau (the "Ladies' Castle"), from Western France Tourist Board

Retail, about $15. 

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