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In addition to being extremely talented vignerons, the Champalous (Catherine, Didier, and their daughter, Céline) are quite skilled in the culinary arts. Ever the warm and generous hosts, they take pleasure in toiling away in the kitchen to create brilliant and often unexpected pairings for their wines. With Vouvrays of all styles available in their cellar—still and sparkling; dry, off-dry, and fully sweet; oak-aged and tank-aged; vintages young and old of every cuvée—the options are truly endless.
Upon placing a dish on the table, Didier likes to play a game. He'll pour a glass of a mystery bottle brought up from the family cellar and then let the guests determine its vintage and bottling. On a recent visit, he served one of the more luxurious creations imaginable: oysters topped with foie gras, baked for several minutes until the whole reached a rich, tender, decadent apex. What wine could possibly accompany this sublime combination of briny and unctuous? One with a fresh spine of acidity and a texture voluptuous enough to stand up to foie gras—their 2009 Vouvray sec. Next, Catherine emerged from the kitchen carrying a Moroccan-style chicken tagine with olives, currants, and preserved lemons—not exactly local Loire Valley fare, but delicious nonetheless, and perfect with a refreshing, ever-so-slightly sweet 2008 Vouvray Les Fondraux, hinting at honey and candied citrus. Finally, to accompany a simple slab of aged comté, Didier poured a radiant liquid reminiscent of melted stone and black truffle. It prickled the palate with a gentle effervescence—surely this must be an aged pétillant? Didier flashed a devious smile as he brandished the crusty old bottle and announced triumphantly, “1986!”
The Champalous’ Vouvray Le Portail is a Chenin Blanc from a very chalky terroir, fermented and aged in 500-liter demi-muids. The most serious and age-worthy of their dry wines, it has a depth and richness of flavor that allow it to shine alongside refined cuisine. Lobster or Loire goat cheeses are an easy match, but don't hesitate to check out the Champalou webiste for additional gourmet ideas.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
Inspiring Thirst, page 312