Foreau’s Peerless Vouvray Brut: Another Side of Chenin Blanc

Foreau’s Peerless Vouvray Brut: Another Side of Chenin Blanc

Philippe Foreau extracts a sample from a well-worn cask for the visiting Rosenthal team.

One of the great chameleons of the wine world, Chenin Blanc transmits site character like few other varieties; that it does so equally adeptly at widely varying levels of residual sugar puts it in even more rarefied company. Where it truly shows its peerless nature, however, is in its sparkling form, for secondary fermentation serves not only to maintain but to actively enhance Chenin’s inherent textural depth.

Nowhere does Chenin Blanc express more beauty than in Vouvray, and the Foreau family’s Domaine du Clos Naudin—a keystone of the RWM portfolio for four decades—produces arguably the finest examples in the entire appellation. From their enviable holdings in the tuffeau heart of the appellation, father and son Philippe and Vincent Foreau shepherd into bottle scintillating, kaleidoscopic wines which vibrate with mineral intensity, maintaining their haunting depth and laser-like precision even at triple-digit levels of residual sugar.

Subscribing neither to the idea of a fixed product line nor to a standardized release schedule, Philippe and Vincent produce only what a given vintage dictates. In some years, for instance, they may produce only sec and moelleux; in others, a great deal of demi-sec and little else. When it comes to their sublime Vouvray Brut, they are equally rigorous, producing none in certain years and dedicating over half of their harvest to sparkling wine in others. While this practice is dreadful for continuity, it is wondrous for quality, and those in the know understand they must secure this precious cargo when opportunities arise.

The transformation Foreau’s Chenin Blanc undergoes through secondary fermentation is jaw-dropping. Anchored by the scythe-like acidity which characterizes the house style, yeast autolysis expands the wine’s mineral register and enhances its salty umami. Notes of white truffle put one in the mind of a well-aged Champagne costing many multiples of Foreau’s, yet the wine maintains a clear through-line of vibrating energy even amidst such enveloping complexity. Furthermore, Foreau’s aging regimen embarrasses many of its pricier peers; the soon-to-arrive 2019 Vouvray Brut, for instance, spent a solid four years on its lees—the briefest stint this wine has undergone in over a decade.

More on Domaine du Clos Naudin here.