Domaine Vigneau Chevreau Cuvee Silex Sec Vouvray 2010
Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau is a family-run estate established in 1875. The 28-hectare Domaine consists of vouvrillon soil made up of limestone, clay and silex. The latter of these soils bears an abundance of flinty stones on the surface and is most favorable to the cultivation of Chenin Blanc, giving the wine its aromatic diversity of ripe quince, baked apples and acacia honey. The vineyards are harvested at various levels of maturity to allow for dry wines (Sec) with a unique flinty, mineral characteristic; semi-dry wines (Demi-Sec) that show a distinct balance of sweetness, acidity and fresh fruit; and sweet wines (Moelleux) with incredible richness, complexity and longevity. The Domaine produces about 12,000 cases per year, half of which is in high quality sparkling wines made by the traditional méthode champenoise. The Domaine is certified organic by Ecocert, and the vineyards are in fact tended biodynamically, which involves even stricter standards of organic wine-growing. Although this method involves much more work and considerably lower yields, the benefits to the long term condition of the vineyards, and therefore the quality of the wines, are dramatic.
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.
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. Somm Secret—Landing in South Africa in the mid 1800s, today the country has double the acreage of Chenin Blanc planted compared to France. There is also a new wave of dedicated producers committed to restoring old Chenin vines.