A span of 20 years is more than most white wines can manage. A grand cru burgundy, perhaps. A fine sauternes, certainly. But a vouvray from France's Loire Valley? Light in body, often fruity to medium-sweet in taste, made from the chenin blanc grape, vouvrays are not for long aging. And so it was a treat to taste three vouvrays, all from the same property and each a decade apart: the 1981, 1971 and 1961 Ch.ateau Gaudrelle. The '81 was lively, lightly grassy and tart. The '71 was deeper in color and softening in taste. The '61, although starting to tire, was pleasantly mellow when served with baked salmon an hour after opening.
Ch.ateau Gaudrelle's owner is Armand Monmousseau, the fourth generation of a family of producers and shippers in the Touraine. The Gaudrelle is not generally available, but Monmousseau wanted to give us some idea of how a vouvray can age. "It gets a second wind. The chenin blanc is high in acidity. Given a fine vintage, it can last a long time."
The family owns another small vineyard within the city limits of Vouvray called Clos Le Vigneau. Tasting the '81 and then the '75, I thought it a fruitier, fuller wine than the Gaudrelle, and one which was aging more gracefully. But why age a vouvray at all? Why not drink them fresh and fruity? Monmousseau himself prefers his vouvrays when they're young. "I save the older ones for special occasions only." He likes to drink the Clos Le Vigneau with charcuterie or on its own and the drier Ch.ateau Gaudrelle with fish, from both fresh water and salt water.
Most of the vouvrays here are in the fruitier, medium-dry style. If you want a really dry one, look for the word "sec" on the label. But make sure that it's a good vintage, such as '81, or you may have more sharpness than you wanted.
Beer Cheers--Have you noticed that there are more and more imported beers in your neighborhood stores? That's great. Even if the export version of a lager or ale doesn't taste quite the same as the home brew, it's got to have more flavor than most American beers. One newcomer is Kloster Pilsener, from Hamm in Germany's Westphalia. A real pilsener is not for the I-like-light brigade and this one has a deep amber color, a touch of spritz and a bitter taste. At $9.95 a case, it's at Calvert Woodley Liquors now, and in northern Virginia soon.
Keen beer drinkers will know that there's a local beer in New York nowadays. New Amsterdam Amber is actually made in Utica, but sold in New York. And now its coming to Maryland and Washington.
Matthew Reich, the young man behind New Amsterdam, and his brewmaster have developed an all-malt, heavily hopped "British" beer, using lager yeasts, fermented at ale temperatures. It'll be as pricey as the British imports, but it's worth it. Reich has come to the somewhat British conclusion that his beer should not be drunk cold. Just cool.
Wonder Where the Bubbles Went?--Armand Monmousseau, our vouvray man, also produces champagne- method sparkling wines. As we tasted the other day, he noticed that our bubbles were not competing equally. One glass was outstreaming the other. The reason, he said, was the way in which the glasses were washed. Detergents can be a killer, literally. Delicate bubbles will die on you. Hand-wash the glasses in warm water with a mild detergent, and then rinse them in cold water. It may take longer, but if you're paying for a good bubbly, it may as well bubble.