Last Monday’s EU AUSTERITY DRINKING TOUR post began our cycle of the Loire with Marc Brédif’s chic winery.  Well inebriated, we continue upriver into Vouvray, hunting wine.


The lazy Loire.

As mentioned prior, the green grape Chenin Blanc reigns supreme in Vouvray.  Crafty Dutch merchants launched it here four centuries ago.  It fits decently in this cold, marginal climate because it ripens earlier than red grapes.  Although other whites would work better, the obstinate French stick to tradition.


A rare glint of sun.

But how do they manage it?  Mid cruise, we notice that vines grow up the North bank.  They all face South, with loads of leaves, like solar panels, sucking up as much sun as possible.  The near river also provides a heat sink and light bounce, which stretches the season just enough.  Even midway into October, many grapes still await one of many picking passes.  So Chenin just manages to ripen.

But then we stumble on something surprising:

Yes, even red grapes struggle in Vouvray.  We never find this red wine, but it probably ends up under the larger Touraine district appellation.

Huffing upriver, cream-colored tuffeau cliffs soon loom over us:


Good for troglodytes, mushrooms, and bubbly.

This soft rock provided easy cutting for cellars.  With only barely ripe Chenin to work with, the French turned to cellaring and converting it into bubbly.  Like Champagne, good sparkling wine benefits from high acids and long storage.  Vouvray’s popular fizz still feeds the posh bistros of Paris, London, and Rotterdam.

Enough learning.  Time to drink in a château:


Somewhat impressive.

We pump our peddles uphill to Château Moncontour‘s tasting room.  We excite over it like Balzac, who once stalked its women, wine, and memorialized it as “one of those small Touraine châteaux, white, joyfull, with sculpted towers threaded like teeth… one of those sweet, smart châteaux which reflect in the river water with their mulberry bushes, their vines… ” We pass a massive, archaic grape press, he may have once saw:


Road-side shrine.

But much has changed.

We skip their museum.  Instead, we hover our way into the tasting barn.  Bottles and cases fill the space.  Soon a youth appears, torn from their lunch.


Looks oddly familiar.

Hungry and overwhelmed by over twenty wines, we start local and fizzy since we missed bubbles at Brédif’s:

Chateau Moncontour, Fête de Cuvée, Methode Traditionelle, Vouvray, France 2009

Rapid bubbles race through a pallid lemon color.  Clean, sharp, youthful aromas of smoke and salt curve into soft pear and green apple.  High acidity cuts through whatever sugar is here, rendering the body light.  Flavors of green apple, honey, and smoke present themselves but disappear nearly as quickly.

At 6 Euros 70 a bottle this is decently good fizz (3 of 5) for any hour.

We try their other crémant:

Chateau Moncontour, Les Chapelles, Vouvray Sec, France 2009

MoncontourLesChapellesFor an extra euro, you get a bit more in terms of florals, vanilla, nut, body, complexity, and length.  Acid verve shines again against even less sugar.  This is good (3 of 5) Vouvray but it still seems a bit simple to be very good, probably due to its youth.

Then other brands appear:

Petite CouteauWe try them, but leave Moncontour empty handed.  Check next Monday’s post, we will find Vouvray worth carting back to our dorm.

What we didn’t realize last year is that Moncontour gets around.  Vignobles Feray owns them and other Loire heavyweights: Vaugondy, Montfort, Petit Coteau, and Coudray Montpensier.  They have wide distribution.  We didn’t even notice we had bought their Fête de Cuvée in Paris just a week prior.  We liked it, but nor more than today.

Uniqueness or intensity are not the goals.  Instead Moncontour aims at consistent, reliable, cleanly made Chenin Blanc perfect for light café or bistro fare.  Easily under $20 stateside, the price is a perfect entry into what Vouvray’s southern slopes and cool caves can do.


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6 Responses to VELO VOUVRAY 2: CHATEAU MONCONTOUR AND CHENIN BLANC: EU Austerity Drinking Tour #47

  1. This can’t miss: Baizac & spitting grapes in some guys vineyard. . .

  2. says:
  3. Pingback: VELO VOUVRAY 3: Maison Darragon | WAYWARD WINE

  4. Pingback: Wine Tour Made Easy: Maison des Vins de Loire de Tours, France | WAYWARD WINE

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