When the sun shines in the Loire Valley and the weather cooperates from bud break to harvest, as it did in 2016, Vouvray produces some of France’s greatest white wines as well as a bevy of exceptional values. We found no better example of this quality and value in Chenin Blanc than the 2016 Domaine de la Racauderie Gautier Vouvray Sec. From Gautier’s 2016 Vouvray Sec a pale sun-kissed robe delights the eye, but what is even more striking is the wine’s hauntingly beautiful aroma, an ethereal combination of stone fruits, orchard fruits, dried honey, and a distinctive minerality born of Vouvray’s limestone-rich tufa soil. In the mouth, the wine’s bouquet is born again. Delicate layers of flavor bearing hints of pear and quince glide across the palate, while a sensual minerality provides additional texture. As the wine makes its exit down the thirsty throat, a bright balanced acidity refreshes the palate. For optimal enjoyment of Domaine de la Racauderie’s Gautier Vouvray Sec, we suggest moderate chilling (40° F) before serving. However, some may prefer this wine slightly less chilled, as fine Chenin Blanc tends to reveal more of its varietal character and reflect the unique terroir of its origin when slightly warmer.
All kinds of seafood, including clams, mussels, prawns, oysters, scallops, and nearly anything else with a shell is a sure bet to serve with the 2016 Domaine de la Racauderie Gautier Vouvray Sec. Smoked salmon, served with cream cheese, onion, and capers works well, too. Vouvray is a natural accompaniment to Southeast Asian dishes, too, as well as sushi, sashimi, and all kinds of vegetables and organic greens, including arugula. In France, the ancestral home of Chenin Blanc, foie gras and pâtés provide preferred accompaniments to Chenin Blanc as the acidity in the Chenin Blanc cuts the fat in the pâtés and complements the texture and rich flavors of the meats. Chicken and pork dishes provide enjoyable accompaniments, too. In addition, cheese pies, pastas, poultry, and quiches provide great companionship. Yet, one of the simplest choices to serve with the 2016 Domaine de la Racauderie Gautier Vouvray Sec can be equally satisfying – an assortment of gourmet cheeses, specifically Brie, Camembert, and other crusted cheeses. Traditional Loire Valley varietals such as Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are, perhaps, the wine world’s finest accompaniments to full-flavored crusted or rind cheeses. They also pair well with creamy cow, goat, and sheep’s milk cheeses. Bon appétit!
The Gautier family has long grown grapes and made wine in Vouvray, the Loire Valley’s largest and most renowned appellation, and can trace their domaine in Vouvray back to 1669. Today, the Domaine de la Racauderie is run by Benoît and Jean-Michel Gautier, who make traditional Vouvray from their 86-acre estate. Their extensive underground cellars are carved out of tufa limestone, which provides the ideal conditions for growing Vouvray’s signature grape, Chenin Blanc, and the perfect natural conditions for storing and ageing the domaine’s wines. The Gautiers fashion classic dry Vouvray Sec (this month’s feature), a racy, off-dry Vouvray Demi-Sec, and when nature permits, the rare Vouvray Moelleux, made from botrytis-infected, late-harvest grapes. Also produced at Domaine de la Racauderie is a selection of high-quality, sparkling wines, including a delicious sparking rosé made exclusively from the rare Grolleau grape variety. All of the estate’s grapes are hand-harvested and Domaine de la Racauderie practices minimal intervention in wine making, resulting in wines characterized by purity of fruit and a distinct reflection of Vouvray’s unique terroir.
Chenin Blanc emanates from France’s Loire Valley, where it produces everything from spritely still and sparkling white wines to some of France’s most luscious and longest-lived white wines. In cool climates such as France’s Anjou and Touraine regions, where weather conditions can vary enormously from vintage to vintage, the acid-rich Chenin Blanc grape variety runs the gamut from bone dry to intensely sweet. Along the Loire, Côteaux de Layon, Savennières, and Vouvray appellations produce the world’s most illustrious wines from Chenin Blanc. And because of its natural acidity and ability to adapt to varying soils and climates, Chenin Blanc, like its French counterparts Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, has traveled the world. Chenin Blanc has found its way to Australia, California and elsewhere, but nowhere is the illustrious Chenin Blanc variety more important outside of France than in South Africa, where it is known as Steen and has become South Africa’s most widely cultivated grape.
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