Forget Chivalry, Cheverny Isn't Dead

William Whelan II |

Like opening the car door on a first date, there are certain classics within the world of wine that will never go out of style. The history and tradition of these classics would often be enough to warrant them remaining a part of the worldwide palate, so it doesn’t exactly hurt that they often taste, well…mesmerizing. 

As much fun as nouveau, avant-garde approaches to winemaking can be, no great innovation comes without a deep, unwavering love, and respect for what came before it. Respect thy elders, or something like that. 

That is why a wine like Cheverny will never, ever die.

There are other examples of life changing Chardonnay—uh, Burgundy says ‘hi’—and the various expressions of Sauvignon Blanc from around the world continue to flash unflinching finesse, or even unapologetic power. But when they come together, the final product is so much more than just the sum of its parts.

Approximately 150 km southwest of Paris, the Cheverny AOC lies on the south banks of the Loire River, the longest river in France, just outside of Tours. The climate is cooler than much of Touraine, resulting in more acidity in the whites, and more room for the classic notes of stony minerality to lace the perimeter of each wine. Whites designated Cheverny AOC must be between 60-80% Sauvignon Blanc, while Arbois, Chardonnay, and/or Chenin Blanc often makes up the balance of the blend.

For this writer, the most sophisticated examples coming from Cheverny are the blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay referenced earlier.

In the best examples, notes of under ripe grapefruit and Meyer lemon sing clear on the nose, while pickled melon rind and damp shale dance around the perimeter of your senses. The fruit is confirmed on the palate, though the there are peripheral suggestions of lime zest, nectarine, white lilies, and white pepper. The front end is crisp, with bright acidity, lending itself to the back of your palate as a more rounded, supple wine. At least, these descriptors would apply to recent tastings of Cheverny I have experienced.

This sensory exploration through these wines affords even the most adventurous eaters with a multitude of pairing options. My thoughts immediately jumped to grilled oysters, with the salinity of both ends in the pairing being harmonious, while the smoke from the oysters and stony texture of the wine providing an intriguing juxtaposition.

Certainly, classic fish preparations would provide ample accompaniment, but be sure to try out croquet-madam, capellini di andre, or even an Eric Ripert favorite, poached halibut with fine herb vinaigrette.

More important than the possible food pairings, geography, or backstory of the producer, these wines speak to the endearing experiences that seduce many a young wine enthusiast.

First and foremost, they are utterly delicious. No matter a wine’s price, tasting notes, or points awarded by a critic, it all comes down to whether or not you actually enjoy what is in your glass. As I say, a wine is either a 1 or a 0; you either like it or you don’t. Cheverny, when done well, is a 1, to be sure.

Second, Cheverny can be enjoyed year round. When summer arrives in New York City, a crisp white is always welcome in my home. However, it is just as beautiful in the midst of a snowstorm, when it’s lively aromatics and flavors express a romantic cohesion with the weather outside. Just as Champagne is fitting for more than just special occasions, any one season or another does not bind Cheverny’s sphere of influence.

Finally, these wines are romantic. The idea that wine can taste very much of a certain place, a certain vineyard site, carries it’s own wanderlust. But it is also the nostalgia induced by sipping a wine that is so approachable, so familiar, and so charming that reminds us why we love wine in the first place. The people we enjoyed each bottle with. The views we saw through each glass.

So, indulge your senses, both physically and emotionally, with Cheverny. You won’t be disappointed.