I'd been itching to try pairing an off-dry (demi-sec) Chenin Blanc with some Chinese take-out. Finally, the opportunity came and we paired the François Chidaine 2006 Montlouis-sur-Loire Les Tuffeaux with some Hunan Chicken, a savory dish with peppers, mushrooms and black beans, and Capital Spareribs, a pork dish with pineapples and a sweet ginger sauce. The name of the cuvée, Les Tuffeaux, likely refers to tuffeau sub-soil, a type of porous sedimentary rock prevalent in the Loire Valley. Also included on the label is Montlouis-sur-Loire, an appellation devoted to Chenin Blanc located across the Loire river from the more famous commune of Vouvray. There's a Chenin Blanc for every drinker from those who like bone-dry still wines, to those who prefer sweet wines, to those who prefer sparkling wines. I figured this off-dry version would be a natural pairing with a sweeter dish.
Indeed, this wine was an excellent pairing with the spareribs. The residual sugar gave it the richness to withstand the sweet ginger sauce, which in turn brought out the minerality. On its own, though, this wine was almost like a dessert wine. While not nearly as sweet, it had the honeyed aromas and rich flavor of a dessert wine. The bouquet included creme brulee, bananas (perhaps isoamyl acetate, an ester I think of as banana VA) and an enticing herbaceouss aroma I couldn't quite figure out in addition to honey. There also seemed to be a hint of oxidation and volatility, but at levels where they were complexing, not distracting. The flavor reminded me of the syrup in a can of pears, but with a healthy dose of acidity and minerality. The finish perhaps was the best part as it had a honeyed and balsamic quality that lingered. Ultimately the acidity seemed a bit low, but this was an interesting drink, like a dessert wine without the incredibly sweet, raisiny qualities or massive body.
I'm still trying to wrap my mind around these Loire Chenin Blancs. The sweetness in this off-dry version was a bit over the top without food, but the complexity and depth of flavor was remarkable. I could definitely see this sort of wine pairing well with a creamy blue cheese. Before I do that, though, I have a dry Chenin or two to take out for a test drive.
Pros: Rich, Complex, Long Finish, Aromatic, Minerality, Full Body, Off Dry
Cons: Insufficient Acidity
Decant: No, ready to go from the bottle
Price: $20 from The Winehound
QPR: Fair/Good (out of Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good or Excellent with Fair denoting expectations were met for the price point)