Practically every encounter in France, be it social or be it commercial, requires a proffered glass of something. I might also add that it is mandatory to accept the proffer. Monsieur Jean came by to help unload the wood I was buying from Maurice. I made the offer to have a glass of Vouvray in my cave. When I filled the glasses, we clinked and sipped. Their reaction was surprising. Monsieur Jean said the equivalent of "wow" and Maurice turned the bottle around to read the label. The bottle's label read Vouvray, 1990. Evidently, the two great years for the Vouvray region were 1989 and 1990. When Maurice asked for a second glass, Monsieur Jean teased him a little because Maurice rarely has time for a second glass. Maurice responded that that was true but this was not the vinegar that Monsieur Jean served in his cave. Maurice rarely lets anyone top him so he insisted that we go to his cave to compare his stock with mine. Being a sporting man myself who loves this kind of competition, I accepted. So it is easy to see why I love to drink Vouvray. An outstanding Vouvray is reasonably priced and will still impress the neighbors.

A statue of St. Vincent holding grapes and surrounded by grape vines from the church in Lavardin, France.

Vouvray is best known for it's sweet white wines. All of its wines can be drunk immediately. However, unlike many whites, they can also be held for years and get better each year. Some of the great years, like a 1989 or 1990 which tie for the best vintages of the century can be held for decades. In Vouvray, the wine makers that I have met insist that this isn't an aging process. They prefer to call it a ripening. Aging or ripening, Vouvray produces sweet clean wines tasting of apples and acacia while remaining fruity and fresh with time. The sweet wines have an amber color while young which turns to gold as they mature. These sweet wines are possible because at harvest the vignoble waits for the grapes to over ripen and harvests them by hand selecting only the most mature of the crop. This is called tris successifs and this over ripening is what that gives Vouvray its characteristic sweetness. These wine are usually served slightly chilled at 12ºC or 55ºF. Although it is generally served before meals as an aperitif, it makes a wonderful dessert when poured over fresh fruit. Like its famous relative, Sauternes, it is often served with fois gras and strong cheeses. This combination may sound strange for American ears, but taste them together and be converted.

All of the Vouvray wines have a natural tendency to become effervescent and are amenable to making a sparkling wine. The result is a light but spirited wine that is faithful to the terroir of Vouvray. There are two types of sparking Vouvray. One is called pétillant and is less bubbly than the mousseux which has more carbonation. These wines should be served at about 8ºC or 45ºF. They can be served as an aperitif or with dessert. They are an excellent buy at a fraction of the cost of a bottle of Champagne.



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