116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
At my wine store, SOMM Wines in Fairfield, I field a lot of questions. First-time customers love to ask me how a sommelier from Las Vegas ended up in Iowa. As our working relationship grows, so do the questions. Do I have a favorite region or varietal? Is there one wine I would drink for the rest of my life? My answers frequently change. I am always tasting new wines and revisiting old ones. As for my move to the Midwest, I think I was always meant to find Fairfield. (Or did it find me?) It is a spectacular balance of small-town values and metropolitan tastes — just like yours truly! I love what I do and where I live, and I could not think of a better way to serve my community. Fairfield life drinks like a perfectly paired wine.
This leads me to my question today: is there a varietal that can pair with any dish? One that is bulletproof and everlasting? As your personal sommelier, I am here to tell you this superhero grape does exist. It can be bottled as a still or sparkling wine. Ripeness levels range from bone dry to semi-sweet to dessert decadent. It is grown in many different regions throughout the world but reigns supreme in the region of Vouvray in France’s Loire Valley. This ever-adapting varietal is CHENIN BLANC, and it just might save the world of wine!
Like any great superhero, Chenin Blanc has several identities. Winemakers in Vouvray call it Pineau de la Loire and have been harvesting this grape since the Middle Ages. South Africa named it Steen, where it is the most widely planted varietal. The United States calls it Chenin Blanc and praises its versatility. With climate change on the rise, I will use my superhero power of fortune telling: I predict more Chenin Blanc planting in the future.
Because it takes many forms, it is invaluable in the coming years of wine production. In cooler years, sparkling wines will drink beautifully. Warmer years will produce age-worthy still wines. If botrytis occurs (noble rot), delicious dessert wine will follow. Regardless of the cards it is dealt, or the nemesis it encounters, Chenin Blanc will produce a lovely wine. The bottling I chose for this pairing fires on all cylinders: Champalou, Sec, Vouvray, France 2021 ($32.99). The first taste is full of citrus fruit and minerality — but don’t forget that we are dealing with a shapeshifter. As the wine begins to open up, the full bouquet of white flowers, apple and pear notes complement our baked apple dessert perfectly. Although it is a dry wine, it almost convinces you it should finish with a kiss of sweetness. This wine is all things equally at the same time. Invincible. Supernatural. Just as my answers to the questions above can change, the Chenin Blanc varietal is adapting to the ever-changing landscape of wine. It is this timeless flexibility that makes it a wine pairing superhero.