Champalou Vouvray Brut and a Very Lazy Cheese Night (#Winophiles)



We all have nights where you feel completely lazy and just want to chill out and not think too much. After a series of holiday festivities this past weekend, we were feeling just this way on Sunday night. I didn’t really feel like lifting a finger regarding dinner. Luckily, there were a bunch of cheeses in the fridge that needed our attention, as well as some other goodies, and a baguette. We took them all out and dinner was done!

To maintain a hint of the holiday vibe, I grabbed a bottle of bubbly to accompany our spread: Champalou Vouvray Brut Méthode Traditionnelle. We’ve enjoyed bottles from Champalou (not just the bubblies) on more than one occasion, as they offer good quality at wallet friendly price points, making them great choices regardless of how fancy (or unfancy) you’re feeling.


Vouvray Cheat Sheet

  • Grape: Chenin Blanc, aka Pineau de la Loire.  (5% of a many-named yet obscure grape called Orbois/Arbois/Menu Pineau is also allowed.) Chenin Blanc tends to show a lot of orchard fruit notes, particularly apples, as well as peaches, melon, and citrus fruits. It will also often have notes of beeswax, straw, and hints of ginger. It may sound weird, but wool and/or lanolin is a common marker for Chenin Blanc. It tends to have lots of fresh acidity (medium + to high). Versions from the Loire also often have notes of herbs and flowers, as well as a good amount of minerality.
  • Region: Touraine section of France’s Loire Valley. It’s the most important white wine appellation of this sub-region. (It’s followed up closely by Savennieres, which is also Chenin based although the styles differ.)  The area covers a total of 2,210 hectares. The town of Vouvray a small and sits on the northern bank of the Loire River.
  • Style: Vouvray can be made in a full range of styles: sparkling and still. Wines are also made in the full range of sweetness levels: dry still (sec), off-dry/semi-dry (demi-sec), tendre kind of between the two, and sweet (doux). There are also versions that show the presence of botrytis, in particular those labeled moelleux, which are typically medium sweet. The tricky bit is that sweetness levels might or might not be on the label. The sparkling wines, which are made in the traditional method, can even come in different levels of fizz.
  • Climate:  The Loire Valley follows the Loire River. The Touraine portion is somewhat inland, so it’s somewhat continental, but still gets some influence from the Atlantic Ocean that helps to moderate temperature. The variations in climate contributes to the range of styles available.
  • Soils: Vouvray is famous for its tuffeau soils, which is a very soft, porous limestone. It was formed about 90 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. It come in two basic forms: tuffeau blanc, which is chalkier and little firmer; and tuffeau jaune, which is softer and sandier. A lot of the regions beautiful châteaux were built from tuffeau blanc, and cellars were often built into the areas the rock was dug out from.
  • History: The region owes the development of its wine industry to Saint Martin, who founded the Abbey of Marmoutier just outside Tours in 372. The monks defined and refined the region’s viticulture on through the Middle Ages. The appellation of Vouvray, however, was not established until 1936.


Maps borrowed from WineFolly.com

 

The Wine


This particular bubbly version comes from Catherine and Didier Champalou. The couple both came from winemaking families, but they both felt a desire to start a project of their own, and so they established their domaine in 1983. Their daughter, Céline, has recently joined the operation as well after spending time working in vineyards around the world.

The family farms their 21 hectares sustainably, while incorporating aspects of organic and biodynamic farming. They plant cover crops in between rows to help increase microbiotic activity in the soils. They make wines in Vouvray’s full range of styles, always aiming at an elegant style that showcases the aromatics of the grape. All grapes are harvested by hand and they use indigenous yeasts for their fermentations.

When we opened this bottle, I picked notes of apple blossom, lightly glazed, flaky pastry, and hints of smoky minerality on the nose. On the palate there were green and gold apples, pears, Meyer lemons, beeswax, and hint of nuttiness. It was round and plump on the palate up front, then moved into a chalky salt-tinged mineral finish.  (On a previous tasting I wrote down similar tasting notes: "Creamy, gold and green apples, a hint nutty, caramel, a little herby cheesiness.  Rounded body, mellow, chalky.")  


Like I said, this was a particularly lazy evening, so I didn’t dwell on each pairing as I would typically do. However, what struck me was that it was a generally friendly companion to all of the cheeses. While some were better than others, there were no really bad matches. Goat cheese is often recommended pairing for Vouvray, and among the cheeses was the Ash-Rind Bouchette from Laura Chenel, which is a goat cheese (I received that one as a sample and is described here), and I did indeed really enjoy that combo.



Geeky Details


Details taken from the Champalou and Kermit Lynch websites.

Average Vine Age: 20 years average
Soils: clay and limestone
Vineyard: Grapes are farmed sustainably. They’re hand-harvested early in the morning to best preserve the quality of the fruit.
Winemaking: The must is fermented in stainless-steel tanks. The wine then ages on its lees prior to bottling. Once bottled, the natural sugar from the grapes creates the second fermentation. The bottles are aged sur lattes for two years before disgorgement. Dosage varies from vintage to vintage with a maximum residual sugar of about 3 grams. The Vouvray Brut "Méthode Traditionnelle" is a blending of three different vintages per cuvée.
Average price: $24. I believe I paid just a little bit under that at Whole Foods, which I think is a really Solid Buy.


You'll notice the very fancy cheeseboard – that would be a cutting board, because that's just how fancy I was feeling. Also, please note the friendly heart on the capsule!

*****
The rest of the French Winophiles are also exploring Vouvray this month – please check out their post below. If you happen to see this post early enough, join us for our Twitter chat on 12/21 at 8 am PT/ 11 am ET by following #Winophiles.


Additional Resources Used for this Post:

Loire Valley Wine
The Oxford Companion to Wine via JancisRobinson.com
Wine-Searcher.com
GuildSomm.com

This post contains affiliate links, including the following Amazon Associate links, from which I might receive a commission at no cost to you.




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10 comments

  1. I also had a Vouvray from Champalou, but a still wine. I wish I could find Champalou at my local Wholefoods. Also wish I could get Laura Chenel cheese, always was a fan when I lived in Sonoma.

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    1. I've had the still wine in the past and it is certainly very good as well. And yes, I've been loooooving this Laura Chenel Cheese.

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  2. Always enjoy your cheat-sheet and geeky details Nicole. The lanolin, beeswax and honeysuckle stands out for me in most Vouvray I've tasted to date.

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  3. With a baguette and cheese in the fridge, dinner is always available! We love the Champalou wines as well.

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    1. It might actually be favorite dinner of all! Thanks Jeff

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  4. OMG...lazy late nights...that is so often my life. Your tasting notes have me wanting to find a bottle of this sparkler.

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  5. The perfect respite from the holiday rush! A night in with the hubby, snacking on a cheese plate and this delicious Vouvray is just what we all need. Excellent cheat sheet on the region/variety too.

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Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!