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Champalou Vouvray La Cuvee des Fondraux 2015

Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, Touraine, Loire, France
  • W&S92
0% ABV
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Winemaker Notes

At the end of a long, draining day, you deserve to relax with a glass of this silky nectar, full of lovely notes of pear, melon, and pineapple. Les Fondraux is elegant and forthcoming, just like the Champalou family, who put all their craftsmanship into making it. Slightly off-dry and very aromatic, it will partner up nicely with spicy Thai food. If you want to stay more traditional, try it with dry goat cheese, or even some bleu, as the wine will balance with the saltiness of the cheese.

Critical Acclaim

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W&S 92
Wine & Spirits
Mature vines (45 years old) provide the concentrated, ripe fruit that Catherine and Didier Champalou ferment in 500-liter barrels, where the wine also ages on its lees for 11 months. This 2015 has a youthful, grapey freshness, feeling cool and brisk. There’s a candied-orange note to the fruit, a sweetness from the alcohol that integrates into the firm structure, so it finishes savory. Ripe and healthy, this will age with grace.
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Champalou

Champalou

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Champalou, Vouvray, Touraine, Loire, France
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Catherine and Didier Champalou both came from vigneron families, yet their mutual sense of independence prompted the couple to brave it on their own right after completing viticultural school in Saumur. Since starting the domaine in 1983, they have not only grown their business, but their label is one of the most highly-acclaimed in the appellation. Vouvray is home to the noble Chenin Blanc, more commonly known as Pineau de la Loire in their part of the world. As widespread as Pineau is, both soil and climate play key roles in the diversity of its incarnations, and a Chenin from California gives one no hint of what the grape is capable of in the right soil.

Farther inland along the Loire, in the region of the Touraine, Vouvray enjoys a warm, continental climate during the summers. Slowly dropping temperatures in autumn make for a long ripening season. Microclimates with high humidity can also bring about the beloved noble rot. The gravel and chalk in the vineyards also play a role absorbing the sun’s rays, lending increased ripeness to this part of the Touraine. The Pineau of Vouvray can be pétillant (sparkling), sec (dry and crisp), demi-sec (off-dry) or in a botrytized state called moelleux. Catherine and Didier make all four styles.

The Champalou family farms twenty-one hectares of vineyards on clay, limestone, and siliceous soils. They embrace sustainable farming while also integrating the use of the lunar calendar more traditionally associated with organic viticulture. The soils in their vineyards are rich, deep, and aerated though regular plowing. Cover crops are planted in between vineyard rows to help with excess water absorption and to encourage microbiotic activity in the soil. The Champalou house style produces wines of great elegance and tenderness, highly aromatic with impeccable balance. No one comes close to copying their distinct style.

Didier and Catherine’s daughter, Céline, has recently joined the domaine after spending her internships in New Zealand, South Africa, Languedoc, Corsica, and Canada. Daughter Virginie lives in London, and is also in the wine business. There is no question that the tradition and quality for which this domaine is known will continue for many years to come.

An important white wine appellation in the Touraine and one of the top in all of the Loire, Vouvray uniquely specializes in a wide range of styles from dry to sweet, and still to sparkling, each with its own definitive character. Vouvray is almost always 100% Chenin blanc (however up to 5% Menu Pineau is theoretically allowed but not often used).

Vouvray is also the name of a pretty little town just east of Tours on the northern bank of the Loire—its vineyards surround it to the northeast. Houses and cellars are carved out of the local tuffeau, a chalky or sandy, fine-grained limestone. Vineyards inhabit clay and gravel topsoil over tuffeau on the plateau, the best of which have a slight slope with a southerly aspect.

Chenin blanc’s high acidity and natural adaptability allow it to produce a wide range of styles with enormous success. Styles under the Vouvray name include sparkling, both Brut and Demi-Sec and still: Sec (dry) and Tendre (off-dry) as well as Demi-Sec (noticeably sweet), Moelleux (very sweet) and Liquoreaux (botrytized). Most can age about five years but the best quality versions will continue to improve over decades.

Chenin Blanc

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Unquestionably one of the most diverse grape varieties, Chenin blanc can do it all. It shines in every style from bone dry to unctuously sweet, oaked or unoaked, still or sparkling and even as the base for fortified wines and spirits. Perhaps Chenin blanc’s greatest asset is its ever-present acidity, maintained even under warm growing conditions. While most would agree it reigns supreme when from its birthplace of the Loire Valley, Chenin is the most planted variety in South Africa. California’s Clarksburg appellation is also winning more notoriety for its Chenin.

In the Glass

Chenin's drier versions commonly have characteristics of passion fruit, lemon, quince, green apple, saffron and chamomile while sweeter version express aromas and flavors such as yellow pear, white peach, persimmon, melon, ginger and honeysuckle. When aged in oak, qualities like meringue and brioche can be found. Sparkling versions often have yellow apple, ginger and floral notes.

Perfect Pairings

Cool-climate Chenin blanc has the chalky acidity to work with light seafood such as oysters and shellfish. Off-dry styles work well with the sweet-and-sour nature of Thai and Vietnamese food. The sparkling versions such as Saumur Mousseux, Vouvray Petillant and Crémant de Loire make amazing aperitif options that won’t bruise the pocketbook.

Sommelier Secret

South Africa actually has double the amount of Chenin blanc planted compared to France. It is believed that either the Dutch navigator, Jan van Riebeeck, brought the grape to Cape Town in 1655 or the Huguenots fleeing France brought it in 1685. Either way, the South Africans have favored it for many centuries and make it in almost every style. Today a new wave of dedicated producers has committed to restoring old Chenin vines and finding the most ideal new spots for this prized variety.

STC778585_2015 Item# 302575