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Need a Viognier or Chenin Blanc to pair with cod chowder...

Our aspiring gourmet chef friend has invited us to a dinner party and assigned the wine pairings. I love wine but don't have nearly her funds (or any disposable funds really...). Despite some great inexpensive finds I've been able to introduce her to, I'd like for once to be able to bring something that meets both her wine snobbery expectations (she routinely spends $50-$60 a bottle) and is deserving of the generous meal she's spent days cooking. But I still have very little cash and am supposed to bring 2 bottles...

So any surprisingly good Viogniers or Chenin Blancs out there in maybe the $20 range?? Something I can find at TJs or BevMo would be even better since I don't think I'll be able to get to a specialty store...

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  1. Don't know where you live....but here in L.A., I found Cold Heaven viognier at $16 a bottle at
    Topline in Glendale. I doubt that TJs has it...but I'm not sure about BevMo. It's really very nice.

    4 Replies
    1. re: perk

      Chenin Blanc from Loire is your best bet. Stay away from Viognier, especially Condrieu as they will be expensive and, imho, not one I would like to pair with chowder as they can be very rich wines.

      Baumard and Closel from Savennieres. Perhaps, Vouvray from Huet and Chidaine. Also Chidaine's Montlouis which I also like.

      Perhaps, you can also mix it up with Muscadet, also from Loire. While not from Chenin Blanc, I like the bracing and refreshing acidity that goes well with seafood. Pepiere and Guy Bossard are 2 of my go to producers, among many others. Lots to choose from for under $20.

      1. re: RCC

        +99 -- Viognier and Condrieu are some of my all-time favorites, but they're way too subtle to go with clam chowder. There's a lot going on in those glasses, and it would be a shame to have them smothered under the heavy potatoes and cream and bacon fat.

        Vouvray, Chablis, Sancerre -- any of the crisp, slightly mineral whites from the Loire would be a far better choice.

        1. re: sunshine842

          mmmmmmmm Condrieu IS Viognier. But there are many viogniers that are not Condrieu. Subtle? Strange word to describe the peachiest wine I know. Cannot imagine any viognier with any chowder.

          Chablis has never been from the Loire. It's from Chablis, which is the northernmost section of Burgundy. and it might go with a Cod Chowder, but hard to say, without knowing how the cook is making this chowder.

          If I were asked to bring wine for chowder, and didn't know the recipe or flavor profile; AND wanted to spend less than $20 per bottle, I'd choose a sparkling wine. Probably a Gruet Brut (New Mexico), or perhaps a Spanish Cava -- but not Freixenet.

          1. re: ChefJune

            Oh, I am quite familiar with Condrieu -- I *love* the stuff, although it's all too rare that I manage to find an affordable bottle. I was frankly disappointed by the last bottle of non-AOC Viognier I bought -- I was all excited that it might be even a shadow of the lovely Condrieu, but while it was a pleasant enough wine, it wasn't even close.

            And yes, you're right, of course, on Chablis. I know better...have visited Chablis...and can claim nothing other than caffeine deficiency for having written that it's from the Loire! A high-end Chablis would, I think, not go well with chowder...but a more "mass appeal" one might.

            Personally, I'd still probably reach for a dry-ish minerally Loire white -- the dryness would cut the richness, the mineral notes would play off of the fish, and the slight fruitiness would work with the cream.

            (but I never, ever turn down bubbles)

    2. Oregon's Penner-Ash makes a very nice Viognier. $26.95 at Woodland Hills Wine Co, per Wine-Searcher. K&L shows it online at $1 more in Hollywood. I'd think the Cold Heaven would be quite good too.

      1. Tasted Consciliance (sp) last week. Best CA viognier in my memory since a Jos Phelps from the 1980's, Reminded me of a top quality Condrieu.

        If you want a good Chenin look to the Loire. You should be able to find a Baumard Savinnieres in you price range.

        Beware of taking recommendations from MevMo. They have a lot of high margin crap that they have to push to keep their jobs. If you know specifically what is good or what you want - and they have it - the price will likely be good. If not, or even if they do have it, they will try to swing you over to something else. Probably not as good but with a bigger margin for them.

        1. Your friend may look down on my suggestion since it is very easy on the pocketbook,
          but Pine Ridge has a very nice chenin blanc viognier blend which is a great summer
          wine and which goes for $13. For less than $20 you will be able to find a good
          Vouvray as well.

          1. Is there a way to think outside the varietal? I'm not sure if either is a match for what I'd imagine would go into the cod chowder.

            If you can't I wouldn't discount South Africa and New Zealand from your Chenin blanc search.