Vouvray is made in many styles, and tasting one of the best stylists is a pleasure with a glass of Philippe Brisebarre’s 2005 Vouvray Cuvee Amedee.
Last month, I found myself standing in Philippe Brisebarre’s chilly wine cellar dug under his hillside vineyards in Vouvray.
Brisebarre’s wine education began with his father, Girard. At age 12, Girard began working in the family’s Loire Valley vineyards after World War II; Philippe was only four years older when he began assisting Girard in 1976.
In 1981, Philippe made his first wine alongside his father, and during the next 20 years the responsibilities gradually shifted from father to son, culminating in Girard Brisebarre’s retirement in 2000.
Standing in a tiny office with wood burning in the fireplace and a collection of Philippe Brisebarre’s Vouvray wines on a table, we began our tasting.
First were the Vouvray sparkling wines made in the champagne method; next came the dry Vouvray still wines; followed by the Vouvray demi-sec or slightly sweet wines; and finishing with the unctuous Moelleux (Moy-yeaur) dessert wines. No other appellation in France makes the range of white wines found in Vouvray.
While this column normally focuses on one wine, there were two on Brisebarre’s table that I can still taste: The dry, still wine Cuvee Amedee and the 1989 Moelleux.
The 2005 Brisebarre Cuvee Amedee is named for Philippe Brisebarre’s uncle. Like all Vouvray wines, it is made from the chenin blanc grape. Usually unremarkable, chenin blanc is noble in Vouvray and royal in the hands of skilled winemakers like Brisebarre.
The 2005 Cuvee Amedee is fermented and aged for 11 months in oak casks ranging from three to five years old. This traditional treatment captures the natural floral scent of Vouvray chenin blanc. The excellent 2005 vintage gave the Cuvee Amedee a rich pear and slight honey flavor; the normal mineral quality of Vouvray keeps the wine fresh and dry on the palate.
There is nothing in American vineyards nor any other wine region in the world that can duplicate the intoxicating aromas and flavors of chenin blanc grown and vinified in Vouvray and other areas of the Loire Valley. It is like asking Chanel to be other than it is.
Try a glass of Brisebarre’s 2005 Cuvee Amedee with grilled shrimp or chicken accompanied with mango slices or salsa; Thai or Vietnamese fish dishes; Indian curries; or just by itself while conversing with a friend.
And as for the 1989 Moelleux, that would take a whole column, but don’t wait for it. The distributor only has a few cases, and the price is too reasonable for it to hang around for my writing schedule. Get it while you can.
The 2005 Brisebarre Cuvee Amedee retails for about $20.