We started our relationship with the Foreau family in early 1982 when André Foreau was still running the domaine. Our first purchases included the magnificent Vouvray Brut Réserve 1977 and Vouvray Moelleux from the 1976 vintage. Over the years, we have had the distinct pleasure on many occasions of enjoying older treasures from these marvelous cellars, courtesy of the generosity of both André and now Philippe Foreau. This kind of learning experience reveals the extraordinary capacity of the noble Chenin Blanc grape, when planted in the prime vineyard sites of Vouvray and managed by a talented and dedicated family such as Foreau, to develop complex flavors and aromas and seductive textures that are inimitable and grand.
The vineyards of the Domaine du Clos Naudin are located in the northeast corner of Vouvray, sited mid-hill with 100% south/southeast/southwest exposures. The principal vineyards are known as “Les Perruches” and “Les Ruettes”. The average age of the vines is approximately 45 years. Yields over the past 10 years have averaged 33 hectoliters per hectare. The vineyards are tended pursuant to organic methods – without the use of herbicides and worked with organic fertilizers. Production levels are approximately 30,000 bottles per annum of still wine and 25,000 bottles annually of sparkling wine made following the traditional “champagne” method.
Harvest is done manually with numerous passes through the vineyards to select ripe grapes bunch by bunch. Crush is done with a pneumatic press and fermentation occurs in barrels of 300 liter size. The barrels are of varying age with a renewal of about 5% annually. Malolactic fermentation never occurs. The wines ferment slowly in the cave over a two month period at about 16 degrees Centigrade. The wines are racked twice before bottling which occurs for the still wines normally in mid-May of the year following harvest. Foreau never chapitalizes his wines; demi-sec and moelleux cuvées are only made in years when the grapes naturally reach a high degree of ripeness. The sparkling wines remain on the lees for at least 48 months to achieve maximum richness and complexity; disgorging occurs once each quarter. In exceptional vintages, Foreau produces a “reserve” bottling of sparkling Vouvray that carries the vintage year on the label.
Philippe Foreau’s wines age remarkably well. Each wine exhibits an extraordinary panoply of flavors and aromas of fruit, floral and earth elements. Because we believe so strongly in these wines, we make a considerable investment in our stocks so that we maintain a series of older vintages for your pleasure.
|Vouvray Sec: When Foreau issues a “Sec” (and the decision to do so relates entirely to the vintage conditions and the composition of the grapes at harvest), the wine can carry from 1 to 2 grams of residual sugar but never more than 6 grams. Because of the vibrant acidity that accompanies these wines, the sensation one experiences is of drinking a scintillatingly dry wine, although one with considerable body and a honeyed texture. We tend to have several vintages available at all times so that our clients can have the option of enjoying the Vouvray Sec in its youth but also with several years of bottle age.|
|Vouvray Demi-Sec: Again, Foreau does not produce a Demi-Sec every year. All depends on the level of ripeness at time of harvest. When a Demi-Sec is released by the domaine, it can carry somewhere between 8 and sometimes as much as 20 grams or so of residual sugar but, more often than not, a Foreau Demi-Sec will be at the 8 to 12 grams RS level. Obviously, each year develops from its own unique circumstances. As indicated in the general description above, Foreau NEVER chapitalizes to achieve the Demi-Sec level and malo-lactic fermentations are never permitted to occur. All still wines at Foreau are bottled during the spring season following the harvest.|
|Vovuray Moelleux: The Moelleux cuvées are made in vintages when at least a portion of the vineyards produce grapes that carry significant levels of natural sugar. Botrytis sometimes occurs but it is not necessary in order to declare a Moelleux. Conditions of “passerillage”, that is extended exposure of the grapes to sun and high luminosity, create the impetus to release wines as Moelleux. Wines so declared can carry formidable leves of residual sugar: 25 grams is perhaps the minimum but more often the Moelleux at the Foreau domaine has 35 or 50 or sometimes even 80 or 90 grams of sugar left in the wine. The goal is to create a wine that is in perfect balance, maintaining a proper level of acidity while keeping the ultimate alcohol level under control.|
|Vouvray Moelleux Réserve: It is the rare vintage that is blessed with the conditions necessary for Foreau to release a Moelleux Réserve. Wines so declared frequently have levels of residual sugar that are in excess of 150 grams of residual sugar. It is not, however, simply the level of ripeness that creates the Moelleux Réserve; it is as much the conditions of the growing season that produce grapes that have a level of complexity and ripeness that demand this sort of classification. An error that many make in assessing and utilizing these wines is to consider the sugar quotient as a disqualifier for use of this wine during any stage of a meal. Our experience is such that these wines can marry well with a wide range of dishes served at the beginning, middle or end of a meal. Recent vintages that have seen the release of a Moelleux Réserve are: 2009, 2005, 2003.|
|Vouvray Brut: As noted above, Foreau produces a sparkling wine from 100% Chenin Blanc. Although the label does not specify a vintage, this vin mousseux is almost always from a single vintage and is left on the lies for at least 48 months before it is disgorged. Frequently, the grapes used to create this sparkling wine are harvested from the younger vines of the domaine and are harvested at an earlier stage of the season so as to preserve a particularly high level of natural acidity. Depending on production levels (once again, as with the other cuvées, not every year is ideal for producing a “Brut”), the Vouvray Brut from Foreau can rest on the lies even longer than the minimum of forty-eight months, thus providing even more richness and complexity.|
Vouvray Brut Réserve Millésimé: In rare vintages, conditions are so favorable that Philippe Foreau makes a separate cuvée of sparkling wine that specifies the vintage from which it is born. In this case, the vin mousseux remains on the lies for sixty months or more and, upon release, the exceptional qualities of Chenin Blanc from the best sectors of Vouvray handled by a true master of the craft are manifest! Recent declared vintages are: 2007 and 2002.
Sparkling Wines, Even if 2020 Hasn’t Earned Them
By Eric Asimov
Nov. 12, 2020
The end of 2020 is mercifully in sight.
Ordinarily, November and December would be the time for gatherings, parties and celebrations. These are the months when the merchants of sparkling wine earn their keep.
This year? Sigh, and cue the shrug emoji.
We will find ways of commemorating the surreal nature of this year. But give up on sparkling wine? That’s just knuckling under to the forces of darkness.
Sparkling wine is made in just about every winemaking region of the world, in a multitude of styles and from almost any conceivable grape.
In recent decades, we’ve come to accept that sparkling wine can be appropriate for any occasion, not just christenings and ceremonies. All the same, nothing suggests a festive mood better than sparkling wine, even if the parties will be more subdued than usual.
This month we will look at several different sparkling wines, each from a different place and made with different grapes. Here are the three I suggest:
Ferrari Trento Brut Metodo Classico NV (Taub Family Selections, Boca Raton, Fla.) $25
Domaine Huet Vouvray Pétillant Brut 2014 (The Rare Wine Company, Brisbane, Calif.) $32
Recaredo Corpinnat Terrers Brut Nature 2014 (Rosenthal Wine Merchant, New York) $33
The Ferrari is produced in northern Italy using the same method as Champagne. It even uses a Champagne grape, chardonnay.
The Recaredo is a cava, though it isn’t called that. Recaredo is like a number of leading Catalonian producers that feel the term “cava” has been diminished by the millions of low-quality bottles turned out every year. It, too, is made using the Champagne method, but with local grapes — xarello, parellada and macabeu, grown in the Penedès.
The Huet comes from the Vouvray region of the Loire Valley and is made of chenin blanc, though not by the Champagne method. Instead, Huet employs the methode ancestrale, like a pétillant naturel. Huet does not use that term, although it calls the wine pétillant in another sense of the word, which indicates that the carbonation is gentler than would be typical in a Champagne-style wine.
If you can’t find these wines, plenty of other choices are available. Other good cava-style wine producers include Gramona, Raventós i Blanc, Mestres, Bohigas, AT Roca, Loxarel and Parés Baltà.
Likewise, if you can’t find the Huet, other good chenin blanc sparklers include François Pinon, Jacky Blot, François Chidaine, Arnaud Lambert and Foreau.
The Ferrari should not be hard to find, but if you can’t for some reason, a lot of other Champagne facsimiles are out there, including Franciacorta in Italy or any number of California sparklers. You could always try a Champagne, too, or go further afield, as with a sekt from Germany or Portuguese sparkling wines.
Drink it with fried chicken, or with pizza. Try it with jamón Ibérico with nuts, or really anything you like. I don’t much like Champagne with caviar — that’s vodka’s reason for being — but if you like, why not? Or just drink it with ceremony.
As for 2020, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.