The French Winophiles are taking a trip to Vouvray this month, land of the aromatic white wine by the same name! Do you know this delicious white wine from the Loire Valley of France? Non? Well, if you like Chardonnay, or Viognier or other fuller bodied white wines (maybe Marsanne or Roussanne?) that smell as good as they taste, then, read on – I think you’ll fall in love with these wines.
Vouvray (voo-vray) is a white wine that comes from the Loire Valley in France, about 130 miles southwest of Paris. When many people think of white wines from the Loire Valley, Sauvignon Blanc is the first thing that comes to mind and yes, there is plenty of delicious, vibrant Sauv Blanc, which goes by the names Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, from all across the middle part of the east-west Loire Valley.
But we’re here to talk about Chenin Blanc, which is the grape of Vouvray (the wine is called Vouvray, because of the nearby town of Vouvray. And yes, it’s easy to get confused between places and grapes and names of wines). There is actually more Chenin Blanc grown in the entire Loire (24,500 acres) than there is Sauvignon Blanc (8,300 acres). Insider scoop: there is also another white wine from the Loire made from Chenin Blanc called Savennières, which I am obsessed with – but that’s for another post.
On to Vouvray! There are basically three styles of Vouvray that you will find.
Sparkling Sparkling Vouvray is made in the same method as Champagne – called methode traditionnelle, where the second fermentation – the one that makes the bubbles – happens in the bottle (as opposed to in a large tank or vat, before the wine is bottled). This gorgeous sparkler is offered by the glass at one of my favorite neighborhood French restaurants, Le Sud, in Chicago. It had boatloads of zesty bubbles, speeding up from the bottom of the glass and the signature notes of lemon, green apple and honey for which Vouvray is known. I think it’s an excellent alternative to pricey Champagne when you want French sparkling, but you also want to stick to your budge.
Sweet Vouvray So, it’s always a little bit of a crapshoot, trying to figure out if any given bottle of Vouvray is going to be sweet or dry, but here is a helpful trick: look at the alcohol level (ABV, or alcohol by volume). The lower the alcohol, the sweeter the wine is likely to be. Why? Because yeast eats sugar to form alcohol, during the fermentation process. So lower alcohol means that the yeast ate less sugar so less alcohol was formed. So this La Vigne des Sablons 2018 Vouvray is 12% ABV … and it was on the sweet side. $
Dry Now this beauty – oh, God, I have such a crush on this wine – is 14% ABV and it is very dry. It’s not bone-dry, because the juicy fruit positively shines in this sunny wine, but there is no sweetness. The Les Grives Soûles 2017 Vouvray ($23 SRP) has waves of lemon curd and juicy, honeyed melon wafting out of the glass, with a rich, almost creamy texture. Once I tasted it, I knew what I had to pair it with: pan-seared sea scallops with lemon butter, buttery mashed potatoes and for health – sautéed spinach! This wound up being maybe one of my all-time favorite food-and-wine pairings!
Do you want to make it? You do! It’s not hard, but it is a little pricey, because the key is going to a really good fish monger and getting top-quality dry sea scallops. (I go to Dirk’s Fish in Chicago; I paid about $11-$12 for three fat sea scallops ones which was perfect for one person.)
- First, just make some mashed potatoes. I totally cheated and used some cheap-ass instant potatoes because you know what? Sometimes I just want easy and also? They’re damn tasty. No judging.
- Second, make some spinach. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil (also known as “some”) in a skillet that has a lid and toss in a smashed garlic clove (it’s coming out later). Heat til the oil til it is shimmering and then pile in an 8-oz or 16-ounce bag of fresh spinach. Stir it about a bit and be amazed at how fast the spinach wilts down to, like, a portion for two people. Use a microplane to add some fresh lemon zest and some salt to taste. Then put the lid on and let it steam til tender. Keep it warm.
- Okay, the scallops! Heat a skillet. I used a dark, Calphalon skillet and honestly, I think I should’ve used my aluminum Calphalon skillet, because those scallops stuck like fucking glue to the pan, no matter how much damn butter I had in there. I think it was the pan (because I’m sure it wasn’t ME, right?)
Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in your sauté pan over medium-high heat and after the butter stops bubbling, add the scallops (which you have already salted and peppered). Cook on each side for 1.5 – 2 minutes, to get a nice brown sear on them. Try not to man-handle them if they stick. Just take a breath and wait til they release from the pan. If you have to go beyond 2 minutes, don’t freak out – and maybe start man-handling them a little so they do not overcook and turn to rubber.
- Time for fancy pan sauce! You can add a bit more butter plus a big splash of Vouvray and some lemon zest to make a fast pan sauce. If you have 1/4 cup of chicken or veg stock handy, throw that in, too.
- Plate it up, garnish with fresh lemon and pour an enormous glass of Les Grives Soûles Vouvray and enjoy. Bon appetit!
But wait there’s more! Check out what these other French Winophiles are writing about Vouvray. And think about hitting us up on Twitter on Saturday, Dec. 21 at 10 a.m. CST, when we’ll be chatting about Vouvray and the Loire Valley. Just use #winophiles and you will find us.
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Pairing a School Assignment with a #Winophiles Project: Moqueca + Gautier Vouvray Argilex 2012”
- Lynn at Savor the Harvest shares “Why I Chose This Wine as A Holiday Favorite”
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “The Multiple Expressions of Vouvray!”
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Creamy Clam Dip with a Sauvion Vouvray“
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish shares “Monmousseau Ammonite Vouvray: Gussying-Up an Ad Hoc Holiday Feast“
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator shares “Carême Organic Vouvray and Lunch at Chateau de Pray“
- Nicole at Somm’s Table shares “Champalou Vouvray Brut and a Very Lazy Cheese Night”
- Jane at Always Ravenous shares “Vouvray with an Indian-Inspired Dinner”
- Linda at My Full Wineglass shares “Dry and Delicious Vouvray for Easy Weeknight Dinner”
- David at Cooking Chat shares “Spicy Lentil Soup with Wine Pairing”
- Susannah at Avvinare shares “Vouvray’s Singular Moelleux Wines”
- Payal at Keep the Peas shares “A Birthday and a Vouvray”
- Liz at What’s in That Bottle? shares “Va-Va-Va-Vouvray! Get to Know These White Wines from the Loire”
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Vouvray Pairs with Cream”