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Fall in Love With the Loire Valley Over a Glass of Vouvray

For fun forward, fruity, food-friendly wines and wines to drink by the bucketful you can not beat Loire Valley whites. The wines of the entire Loire Valley with the probable exception of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume are unjustly overlooked and neglected by all but the Parisians and the northern French. The Loire Valley is one of the northernmost vineyard areas in Europe.

For very good reason the Loire is the third most popular tourist destination in France. One of the Loire's regions Touraine near Tours contains the appellation Vouvray, which is also the name of a small town. Vouvray is the largest white wine appellation of the Anjou-Saumur-Touraine region, with 4000 acres of vineyards.

On average, 40 percent of each vintage becomes sparkling wine. And yet, the only other region in France that produces more sparkling wine than the Loire is Champagne. Vouvray is a white wine made exclusively from the Chenin Blanc grape also known locally as Pineau de la Loire with remarkable qualities and diversity.

Asimov put it wonderfully regarding Chenin Blanc the only grape allowed in the appellation. "No other grape I can think of combines actual lightness with such a sensation of density, almost as if the wine oozes through the mouth rather than flows." Chenin Blanc has long lived in the shadow of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc but this great white is effortless wine, welcome in just about any circumstance. Vouvray has developed a deserved reputation for being extraordinary wines of longevity, finesse and delightful and often surprising versatility. It's often made dry with a bit of sweetness, or can even be medium sweet, but that's tempered by its tingly acidity that dances across your palate, kind of like honey and lemon together.

This makes it a terrific food wine for chicken, veal, pork and fish. A blast of acidity delivered with each sip makes sparkling Vouvray an excellent bubbly to accompany rich foods such as sauteed seafood, and cream sauces. Vouvray is what you should drink dressed up and served with terrine of foie gras with truffled jelly or dressed down with a bowl of pasta and pesto. Drink it reclining on a sun-lounge, chilling out and watching a DVD with the kids, or after cleaning out the attic. Vouvrays are gorgeous wines, some of the longest lived and most complex whites in the world legendary for their stiletto-sharp, flashing palate-cleansing acidity.

It is this very acidity that makes Vouvray one of the longest-lived white wines of the world. They are highly complex, intriguing, and challenging. They last and last and last and become more luscious and full-bodied tapering off with a long finish. A 20 year old Vouvray will taste as lively as one much younger.

A properly aged Vouvray with deep molten honey colour , toasty nose, wonderful tang and great vivacity adds a whole new dimension of gorgeous full-blown flavours of lemon, apricot, pineapple, currants and peach. The best made sparkling Vouvray can age beautifully. The best vintages have heralded from 2005, 2002, 1995, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1985, 1976, 1971, 1969, 1959, 1949, 1947, 1945 and 1921. The 2005 vintage is one of the greatest vintages. There were no spring frosts to damage the flowers, and a long dry autumn with sunny days and cool nights followed.

There are two versions of sparkling Vouvray called Vouvray Mousseux and a finer beaded called Vouvray petillant. Sparkling Vouvray is nothing like champagne. Because of its richness and depth of flavour it is more like a champagne cocktail. Sparkling vouvray is elegantly supple and very sexy.

Few wines will excite your palate like a good Vouvray sec or demi-sec from Gaston Huet or Philippe Foreau. Gaston Huet, grandfather of modern Vouvray and the ex-mayor of Vouvray for over 40 years died in 2002 aged 92. He says he drank his best wines before surrendering to the Natzis in World War II. He left his 100 acre biodynamic domaine to his capable son-in-law Noel Pinguet.

Huet's Vouvrays perhaps the ultimate insider's wines are now immortalised on the big screen so to speak. In "Sideways" when the ladies retreat to the bathroom for a moment, Jack chastises Miles for having subjected the group to a lengthy disquisition on Huet's Vouvrays. Take heed all Huet Vouvrays last and last and are seriously underpriced.

Lets face it, beyond doubt France's most food friendly wines come from the Loire. Vouvrays are gorgeously complex long-lived wines, as decadently vibrant as they are exuberantly delicious all produced in one of the most gorgeous wine regions of the world, the Loire Valley with magnificent chateaux and a gentle climate.

Corina Clemence runs Chateau du Guerinet, near Vouvray a luxury chateau for up to 15 people set in the middle of a 4000 acre forest perfect for visiting Loire Valley's chateaux and vineyards and relaxing. Rent a castle in France http://www.loirechateau.com Rent a french chateau



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