Loire Valley Chenin Blanc is inimitable.
It is expressive and idiosyncratic, fruity and funky, bracing, refreshing, and undergirded by supreme structure. The Val de Loire is the historic home to the grape, and produces – without exception – its finest expressions. It is one of those rare varieties that is excellent in all styles: both sparkling and still; from exhilaratingly dry to lusciously sweet, fresh and youthful to mature and resonant. Despite its supreme versatility, it has been consistently undervalued, regularly overlooked in favour of its much more famous friend Chardonnay. If Chardonnay is Meryl Streep (nearly universally beloved, iconic, stately, quicksilver in the hands of a director), Chenin Blanc is Lily Tomlin, or Fanny Brice, or Kristen Wiig, or any marvelous comedienne who is quirky and unique and unabashed and profoundly enduring. Chenin Blanc can be elegant, but it can also be earthy, riotous, unconventionally beautiful, oddly compelling. It is, perhaps, the most naturally fascinating of grapes.
Barton & Guestier Les Petites Parcelles is old-school Vouvray (Vouvray, of course, being the original marquee village for the variety, producing only sparkling and still white wines based on Chenin Blanc). On the nose, lemon pith and oil are accompanied by Vouvray’s signature smoke and beeswax, lanolin and wet wool, as well as a little dried honey. On the palate, this same lightly honeyed character overlays ripe golden delicious apples, pureed Asian pears, and a chalky white stone minerality. There is some residual sugar lending a burst of succulent fruit at the front of the palate, followed immediately by the kind of lively acidity that brings you back to the glass over and over again.
One of Chenin Blanc’s most charming attributes is its ability to pair with almost anything; it is the perfect wine to bring to a potluck with friends. However, given the generosity of this wine, I love to pair it with a pork roast, especially if there are elements of fruit and heat in the preparation. Go nuts. Get wild. Barton & Guestier Les Petites Parcelles Vouvray will stand up to whatever it is you want to cook.