At a winemakers’ dinner at the cool Zero Waste Restaurant, Silo, Nick finds he definitely wants more Vouvray in his life.
Often sidelined by Sauvignon Blanc, Vouvray deserves more attention. So tonight from the banks of the River Loire in France all the way to the banks of the River Lea in Hackney Wick, winemakers from the region have travelled far bearing gifts.
They have four of Vouvray’s sparklers and twelve expressions of the white wine, some of them not usually available in the UK.
Not sure what Vouvray is? A quick summation then.
The grape of Vouvray is Chenin Blanc, more complex than its Loire Valley cousin Sauvignon Blanc. Its area is the Touraine district of France close to the city of Tours (the grape can also be found in South Africa, thanks to the Dutch settlers). The grape varies along the region with dry, sweet, and sparkling all made, each having its own characteristic from the local ‘terroir’, which is clay-limestone and clay-siliceous soil
All Vouvrays tend to be ‘cutting’, they have acidity and minerality in the way that Riesling wines do, this makes them exceptionally good with all kinds of food, and because of the range of expressions there is plenty to play with when matching with food. Whatever you’re eating, there is probably a Vouvray for vous.
Vouvray fizz is gentle and creamy, fines bulles (fine bubbles) and pétillant, as the French say. Péter is also the French verb for passing wind, but enough of that.
We first tried four sparklers.These used to be called Mousseaux, to indicate they were made by the Charmant method – secondary fermentation in a tank – or simply by adding Carbon Dioxide to get the bubbles.
Today they use the méthode champenoise, which means adding sugar to create a secondary fermentation in the bottle, and occasionally Pétillant Naturel, one of the very first ways to make sparkling wine. Interestingly many producers or Pet-Nat do not use a wired caged cork, but a crown cap as found on beer bottles.
Of the four sparklers, my favourite from a close pack, was the Domaine de Margellau Cuvee Privilege 2015, with its complex aromas and standout minerality. As it’s not available in the UK though, I would buy Domaine Damien Pinon Le Brut 2020 not just for its excellent taste but because Damien converted to organic in 2023 and this is to be encouraged. Imported by Graft Wines.
Food and wine
A quick word about Silo Restaurant. This uber trendy canalside restaurant in fashionable Hackney Wick is all about zero waste, which it achieves by trading directly with farmers, using reusable delivery vessels and choosing local ingredients. Any spare scraps of food go to compost, the ultimate recycling. The menu is fixed – eleven to twelve dishes – but changes seasonally.
We tried different Vouvrays still wine with each course, often undecided which worked better, but agreeing that all worked well, as well they should because they had been chosen by the team.
- Siloaf, butter
- *Quaver, vegetable treacle, goat’s cheese
Maison Darragon ‘Les Tuffes’ 2022
- Flourish peppers, cuttlefish garum
Domaine de la Canopée ‘Clairiere’ 2022
- Tomato, smoked yoghurt, venison garum
Domaine de la Rouletiere ‘Les Argiles Rouges’ 2022
- Mussels, cucumber, fennel
Domaine Damien Pinon ‘Tuffo’ 2022
- Wild rabbit, spent sourdough, vegetable XO
Domaine Vincent Careme ‘Le Pue Morier’ 2021
- Green beans, vadouvan, dashi beurre blanc
Clos Thierriere ‘Sang de Roche’ 2022
- Maitake mushroom, miso, Szechuan pepper
- Fosse Meadows chicken, rainbow chard, buttermilk
Domaine de la Canopée ‘Clairière’ 2022
Vignoble Brisebarre 2018
- Pirate amazake, elderflower, raspberry, lemon verbena
Domaine de Nicolas Brunet ‘Les Chapelles’ 2018
- Siloaf ice cream sandwich
- Domaine de Nicolas Brunet ‘Les Chapelles’ 2018
As you can see,some challenging stuff there for any wine, but the Vouvray held up. Because the expressions can vary from dry to medium to sweet, there is a Vouvray for almost any dish.
The food was excellent, strong flavoured dishes contrasted with subtler ones. Domaine de la Rouletiere ‘Les Argiles Rouges’ 2022 I liked a lot despite it being demi-sec as I am not usually a fan of any sweet white unless it is full on dessert wine. It worked very well with the acidic tomatoes and their coating of smoked yoghurt.
My other favourite was Domaine de la Canopée ‘Clairière’ 2022, nicely dry and at 13% quite high in alcohol. The soil at the estate is very stony, and this is reflected in the flinty feel of the wine. Sadly it’s not available in the U.K yet.
This was my first serious interaction with Vouvray, having only tried random bottles in the past. Getting to try so many expressions of the Chenin Blanc grape, and with challenging food, certainly was an educational experience.
My advice: get to know Vouvray, and impress your friends. This one’s for vous.