It’s March, that odd month when the cusp of Spring coaxes hopes of warm weather out of us weighty coat burdened humans as we keep up our daily grind. The warming glow of saved daylight contradicts the additional inches they’re predicting, and we’ve developed more than a little irrational resentment towards root vegetables… or maybe that’s just me. Resolutely, after months of opting for weightier reds, layering every sweater I own, and roasting all the roots in sight in the coziest fashion imaginable… this month, I’m drinking Chenin.
Chenin Blanc is a rather known but rarely understood varietal with a duplicitous personality. From dry and racy to honeyed and round, the beauty of Chenin is how purely it can embody and reflect the facets of its essence depending where it’s grown. I decided to begin my month of Chenin Blanc with a wine from its historic and viticultural homeland, the Loire Valley. Situated in western France about 230 miles north of Bordeaux, the valley is the terminus of France’s longest river, which courses from the peaks of the Massif Central to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Widespread Chenin Blanc plantings in the Loire date back to the 9th century, however, significant uprooting in the 1970’s consolidated its presence to the middle of the region, around Anjou, Saumur, and Touraine.
This “middle valley” region is particularly intriguing because between the cities of Angers and Tours you experience a dramatic meeting point of climate and soil based influences, which poignantly change the character of the Chenin Blanc from each specific place. You get an amalgamation of Atlantic and Continental microclimates, varying soil types from the costal mix of volcanic alluvial gravel, to Saviennieres’ slatey schist, to chalk in Vouvray, to sand in the eastern most AOCs. It’s wild.
Earlier this week I was cooking dinner at home; most nights it’s something quick and easy, but this time I was feeling adventurous. I don’t know whether the Poached Sole with Blood Orange Beurre Blanc recipe begged for Chenin, or if the pairing steered my browser to the match from the start. Either way, I was inspired.
We drank the 2013 Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Sec ($25, Organic)**, and it was tangy, racy, and bright- more so than I was expecting if I’m being honest. But oh did it work. Notes of lemon, fennel, and a briny mineral driven finish married with elements of the menu, which included Leek and Rainbow Carrot Fritters and a Blood Orange, Fennel and Endive Salad. The wines vivacious acidity harmonized with the richness of the beurre blanc, without overshadowing the sole in its delicate, flakey perfection.
Now, you don’t have to go crazy with pairing worry- when it comes to Chenin Blanc, there is so much possibility. Take home any of our selections, and give yourself the opportunity to put Winter behind you and get inspired.
**SHAMELESS PLUG: I’m pouring the Chevreau Vouvray mentioned above at this Friday’s tasting! (March 6th 5:30-8PM) Come on by!