This Week on the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© Chenin Blanc and Fondue for You


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Good Sunday morning and welcome to the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show©. 

The Loire Valley is well known not only for its wines but it also is the summer playground of the rich, famous and royalty.  The countryside of the Loire Valley is embellished with elegant and enormous chateaux.

While the Loire Valley is the largest white wine producing region in France, it is also the second largest producer of sparkling wine in France.  But what the region is truly famous for is Chenin Blanc.

This wine whether you prefer an Old World or New World style of Chenin Blanc made in a dry style pairs very well with my favorite dinner this winter, Cheese Fondue.  The blend of cheeses in this delectable winter comfort food is a staple for the Swiss.  The wines that I’m recommending today are perfect partners with the Cheese Fondue recipe I’m also sharing with you, (see this recipe at the end of today’s blog post).      

Chenin Blanc is such a very versatile grape that it can produced as a standalone varietal or as a blending grape, typically with Chardonnay.  It is dry, very crisp, acidic, high in alcohol content, yet is smooth and a full bodied white wine.  Chenin Blanc wines are intense, aromatic, and floral on the nose.  On the palate this grape will deliver a wide spectrum of flavors and textures.  One’s palate may experience everything from slight citrus, grasses, spiciness, a little bit of honey, and lush tropical fruit. 

This grape is commonly referred to as the “chameleon”, it is diverse and can be made in many styles.  In the Loire Valley of France Chenin Blanc is known as Vouvray, it is the best example of French Chenin Blanc. 

In the Old World Chenin Blanc is frequently used as a blending grape with Chardonnay.   These two grape varietals are wonderful companions in a wine and I’ll be sharing one of these with you today.  In the New World Chenin Blanc is typically produced as a single varietal wine.

Old World winemakers ferment their wines at higher temperatures and age their Chenin Blanc wines in acacia and chestnut barrels.   This Old World technique produces wines that are well rounded with a greater depth of desirable color.   New World winemakers will use steel tanks for fermenting and aging.   This technique preserves crispiness, acidity, and fruitiness that are terrific attributes of a well made Chenin Blanc wine.  New World style Chenin Blanc’s are typically lighter in color than its Old World counterparts.  Color varies with style and approach in making wine, wood barrels vs. steel tanks produce different results.

The versatility of Chenin Blanc allows winemakers the flexibility to transform this chameleon of a grape into many different styles ranging from dry to sweet, or as a sparkling wine.  This wine is often described as having a taste profile driven by minerality, greengage, angelica, and honey.  The dry or semi-sweet styles exhibit flavors of chalky minerality, honey, quince, and acacia. 

Vouvray from the Loire Valley is offered in three different styles; dry which is known as (Sec), medium-dry or (Demi-Sec), sweet (Moelleux, m wah leuh), or as a sparkling wine.  Winemakers of the New World are striving for a dry wine that both intense and floral.  A well made Chenin Blanc wine is delightful on the nose, notes of floral aroma and scent of banana, pear, guava, and pineapple. This wine is crisp, acidic, and tropical with a little nuance of spice on the palate.  Paired correctly with food this wine is beautiful and can bring out the very best in the food.

Each year weather is a determining factor in the type of wine that is produced in Vouvray.  Cool years produce vintages of dry or sparkling wines, while warm years produce sweet wines such as Moelleux, (m wah leuh).  Because wines of Vouvray are naturally high in acid they may be aged in some cases up to 100 years.

The soil in Vouvray consists of calcareous clay, producing Chenin Blanc wines that are rounded and balanced, delivering nice body, fruit, and acid.  Almost all vineyards in the Loire Valley are planted on sloped plateau with southern exposure.  Streams run through the area and this combination offer ideal growing conditions.  Old World winemaking technique truly compliment the terroir of this region, the wines are stunning.

Marc Bredif Vouvray 2008 from the Loire Valley, France ($21.99)

This is one of the finest examples of Vouvray I have ever tasted.  Visually this wine is sintilating in the glass, presenting a geourgeous pale gold yellow. On the nose this wine is intense with floral and fruit driven scent.  Marc Bredif Vouvray is perfectly deceptive on the entry and then reveals itself as lush and full on the mid-palate.  Crisp, lush, yet a slight citrusy tart quality that shows a little citrus and a perfect grassiness that while this wine is big on flavor it is beautifully dry.  Next you experience wonderful fruit led by exquisite pineapple with layers of other subtle yet a wonderful supporting cast of tropical fruits.  color is pale gold yellow.  It has a very intense and fruity nose with notes of white flowers and quince.  It has a subtle attack on the palette and a fresh structure and aromatic finish.

Tariquet Chenin Chardonnay, a unique recipe 75% Chenin 25% Chardonnay ($9.99)

This wine from the Southwestern Languedoc Rousillon region is a lovely wine and at this price you can’t go wrong.  It’s crisp, it’s creamy, yes a treasure of a wine.

The contrast between the Chenin Blanc minerality and the creamy Chardonnay is somewhat reminiscent of sweet and sour cooking.  Refreshing, bold and full of flavor on the entry with underlying notes of crisp ripe grapes, followed by a satisfying finish.  Faint floral shades of vanilla and toffee take turns revealing their delights, while a touch of saltiness leads to a pleasant lingering finish.

L’Ecole N° 41  2010 Chenin Blanc – Columbia Valley ($10.99)

This second generation, family-owned artisan winery located in the historic Frenchtown School depicted on our label.   Founded in 1983, they are the third oldest winery in the Walla Walla Valley.  As a traditional brick and mortar winery they grow and make 100% of their wine.  The focus is on terroir-driven, distinctive, and expressive wines.  All of L’Ecole’s Walla Walla Valley wines are made from grapes which are certified sustainable.

This fresh, tart and delightfully fruity Chenin Blanc shows Asian pear, perfumed honeysuckle and orange blossom aromas with flavors of apple, apricot, and grapefruit on a crisp mineral, lightly sweet finish.

L’Ecole Nº 41 has produced this old vine, Vouvray style Chenin Blanc since 1987. Jean Ferguson, L’Ecole Nº 41’s founding winemaker, loved this wine and crafted her version of Vouvray through cold fermentation to enhance the fruity and floral esters.  This wine offers great value.

WineGuyMike’s™ Cheese Fondue Recipe

Preparation – Chop on Shallot finely, 1 loaf of crusty cubed bread, grated 2 cups of Gruyere cheese, grated 1 1/3 cup Emmenthal cheese, cube ½ cup of Brie cheese, have one real lemon and corn starch

  1. Combine one finely chopped Shallot
  2. Add 1 ¼  cup of Cristilino Extra Dry Cava(Sparkling wine)
    1. Combine and bring to a medium boil for 2 minutes, then turn off heat
    2. Add all cheeses and stir to combine, cheese will begin to melt
    3. In a bowl mix 4 tsp. of corn starch with 1 Tbls. Of real lemon juice
    4. Return mixture to a medium heat and stir for 10 minutes
    5. Mixture will melt and then begin to thicken.  At about the 8 minute mark add about 4-5 healthy shakes of nutmeg and about 4-5 generous shakes of white pepper
    6. Continue to stir and combine all ingredients, once mixture thickens reduce heat to a consistent medium-low heat  

Grab your fondue fork and poke a piece of cubed bread, dunk it in the Cheese Fondue.  Choose one of the wines I have recommended today and enjoy a perfect mid-winters meal. 

Cheers from WineGuyMike™

"from my table to yours"

"from my table to yours"

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