Sauvignon Blanc or Sauvignon Bland?
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Sauvignon Blanc or Sauvignon Bland?
If the description “cat’s pee” sugars your gooseberry you’re probably an avid fan of the Sauvignon grape. Uncork a bottle and a bouquet
of flowers, crisp green vegetables and tangy citrus fruits will instantly mug you – truly a grape that refreshes the parts of the nose that
other wines cannot reach! These wines, at their best, exemplify the vibrancy and sappiness of a spring morning, and, expressing a cool
youthfulness, are dry, zesty, and mouth-watering. Conversely, the joy of sexy Sauvignon is usually an ephemeral one: it is the ‘wham bam
thank you ma’am’ of grape varieties, raucously promising more than it delivers. The initial dramatic aggressive impact is never bettered:
the wine will rarely develop in the glass nor acquire complexity with further age, surely the sign of a noble grape. As the bard says
“Present mirth hath present laughter… youth’s a stuff will not endure”.
And yet… In the Upper Loire the vein of Kimmeridgean limestone extending through Chablis to the Champagne region provides the
perfect terroir for Sauvignon to express its taut energy. The vineyards of Domaine Henri Bourgeois are situated on a range of soils, each
of which lends the wines particular nuances. Tasting Sancerre Jadis or Sancerre d’Antan is a back-to-the-future experience. These are
wines made from low yielding old vines (50+ & 70+ years respectively) on tiny plots of organically farmed land, labours of love and
acknowledgements to the rhythms of the past, yet they also reveal the potential of the Sauvignon grape when released from its primary
role as nose-piercing thirst-quencher. With their complete structure and fine mineral edge these wines will age more than thirty years
proving that Sauvignon can be a real pleasure when it’s serious.
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DOMAINE SAINT-NICOLAS, THIERRY MICHON, Fiefs-Vendéens – Biodynamic
It was in 1960 that Patrice Michon settled in Brem-Sur-Mer, inheriting several acres of vines belonging to his father.
Slowly but surely he bought more vines to increase the value of his wine heritage which is now over 32 hectares. In 1970
he moved to Ile d’Olonne and built a winery. He was joined in 1984 by his two sons Thierry and Eric who have broken
with wine-making tradition in Vendée and are now making their mark with these very special wines of Domaine Saint –
Nicolas. Due to its proximity to the ocean, Domaine Saint-Nicolas benefits from a micro-climate: sea, woodland and the
marshes of the Ile d’Olonne. The vines are planted facing south-west for the Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet and south-
east for the Chardonnay and Chenin on clay and schist soils. The domaine extends to some thirty-seven hectares and each
one of them farmed biodynamically! It is a major undertaking to keep the soil, and hence the vines, healthy. Thierry’s job
is also made more difficult due to the range of different grapes he tends here. Whilst the vignoble is planted with the
standards such as Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir and Gamay, there is also Cabernet Franc, the obscure Négrette
and the equally obscure Grolleau Gris. The Négrette ends up in his baby red called Reflets Rouge which normally sees
40% of Pinot Noir blended with 20% each of Gamay, Négrette and Cabernet Franc. Grolleau or Groslot Gris adds a
touch of spiciness and excitement to the salty, white wine called Les Clous which is a blend of Chardonnay, and Chenin
schist and silex a flint stone’s throw away from the Atlantic, Thierry is the prophet of biodynamics in this tiny viticultural
area. His vineyards never see a non-organic product. He raises his own cows simply for the manure they produce which
he religiously spreads between the vines. He has slowly purchased buffer zones all around his property to prevent
chemical products from other winemakers from seeping into his parcels. For him, biodynamics isn’t just a pragmatic
consideration, it’s a religion.
Grapes are harvested by hand and are sorted on a mat and de-stemmed.
and partial pelliculaire maceration followed by cold settling and temperature-controlled fermentation at 18/20°C on the
indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. For the reds elevage is either stainless steel or wood tank maceration, punching
down, fermentation and ageing in oak barrels.
Les Clous is a blend of Chenin, Chardonnay and Grolleau Gris from clay schist soils. Beautifully distinctive with aromas
of the forest and the sea, the wine has flavours of candied fruit with a wet rock element. It finishes almost dry and has the
hallmark refreshing acidity of cool-climate wines. Le Haut des Clous is pure Chenin with average age vines of 25 years,
planted on clay/schist soils. Slight slopes which are exposed south-east, cultivated biodynamically since 1995, ploughing,
mechanical and manual hoeing, vines treated with sulphur, spraying with Bordeaux mixture, herb treatments (nettle,
etc…) Fresh and lively, with light-weight floral, persimmon, green almond, apple and pear notes stretched over a bright,
elegant frame. You can smell the marsh in the aromas present, manifesting as heather, lavender and almond. Good tight,
Reflets Rosé is 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Gamay and Groslot Gris with average vine age of twenty years, planted on schist
soils. Gloriously pale pink colour with berry aromas with a savoury dry finish, whilst the red of the same names features
Pinot Noir with Gamay and Cabernet Franc (and often a little Négrette.) Light berry aromas on the palate but the real
beauty of the wine is the incredible lightness of being in the palate. Fantastic delicate balance in the mouth. The playfully
monickered Gamme en May (geddit?) is light, refreshing and delicious. You can drink it any time of the year.
Lastly, a Pinot Noir from vines planted in the mid 1970s, manually harvested and 80% destemmed grapes made in the
Burgundian style. Fifteen months elevage in big (400-litre) casks (hence the name, “Grande Pièce” which means big
cask). Whether it is the schist soil or the micro-climate, this Pinot Noir is one of the Loire’s best, exhibiting
a strong hit of raspberry allied to a vibrant saltiness, alluding to its maritime origins .It may be that this is the only littoral
Pinot Noir planted on schist in the world, but if you know different - - answers on the back of a tweet.
LES CLOUS BLANC
LE HAUT DES CLOUS BLANC
GAMMES EN MAY
PINOT NOIR RESERVE « LA GRAND PIECE »
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PIERRE LUNEAU-PAPIN, Muscadet
One of the unusual features of Muscadet, according to the Hachette Guide, is that it is not named after a geographical or
historical area, but that the name probably dates from the Middle Ages when Muscat grapes from Cyprus acquired a
reputation at feudal courts. After the great frost of 1709 the vineyard was replanted with a Burgundian grape variety, Melon.
Lees are the deposit or sediment left at the bottom of the tank after the wine has fermented. Although the gross, or coarse, lees
are eliminated, many Muscadet producers choose to leave the wines on the fine lees to impart aromatic substance and
richness to the wines. The sur lie designation contrary to supposition is not given solely to rude French producers, but to
Muscadets that have been kept on the lees for more than four months and have not been racked or filtered prior to bottling –
which takes place before the last day in June in the year following the vintage.
as long as we can remember. He keeps a variety of thoroughbred Muscadets in his stable and on his table, terroir
differentiation being the name of the game. The vines may be grown on sands and gravel, on granite and gneiss mica,
schist or volcanic gabbro, but the mineral, salty nuances are always present and the capacity to age built into the steely
structure of the wines. Domaine du Verger, from the schists of Landreau (20km south east of Nantes) reminds one of Petit
Chablis: white flowers, stones and water. Wonderful bready/yeasty nose and a smooth buttery palate with good
concentration. Even on this commercial wine the production is largely organic (organic manures, lutte raisonnée,
controlled yields). A far cry from la lavasse served up in many bars. Clos des Allées is low-yielding old vines Muscadet, a
mightily mineral taste bud tingle that’s serious enough for food. Laverbread, said Matthew Bradford, (a man who knows
his (sea)weed) as he was nosing this, and, certainly it is reminiscent of all things littoral. The concentration is achieved by
hand-harvesting, maceration pelliculaire and seven months sur lie before bottling. If you want to freak your friends out
purchase a bottle of the “L” d’Or – it’s Muscadet, but not as we know it Jim. You’d be ready to bet it was butt…
Burgundy. From 50-year-old+ vines in the terroir Vallet (comprising granitic micas) this also undergoes a maceration
followed by nine months on the lees. Hmm (strokes chin quizzically) is this the only list where the Muscadet is older than
the Vin Jaune? And did you know that Pierre Luneau is at the forefront of a movement to make Grand Cru Muscadet?
Top quality Luneau-cy all round. And here it is: sur schist and sur lie (24 months thereon) – Le Clos des Noelles,
Muscadet in excelsis. The poet Andrew Marvell wrote “Stumbling on melons, as I pass…” We warrant he never stumbled
across a melon like this! This single vineyard Muscadet has an amazing, almost exotic nose of acacia-blossom and lime-
flower and fills the palate with layer upon layer of “bread-and-butter” fruit. The yeasty sour-dough smokiness lingers
hauntingly and the length would grace a premier cru Burgundy. Possessor already of superb single and cru locations,
they have now brought a spectacular new vineyard on stream. Finally, La Butte de la Roche – planted on the exposed
slopes of a hill that rises steeply out of the marshes the vines are on a fascinating iron-rich serpentite and magnetite soils
caused by gradual metamorphic transformations. This terroir imparts terrific complexity to the wine which is initially taut
with cool oyster-shell notes before unveiling more complex aromas of salt butter, gorse blossom and river stone and a
palate bound together by soothing acidity. Truly the DRC of Melon de Bourgogne, the 1er Mousquetaire of Muscadet.
GROS PLANT DU PAYS NANTAIS
MUSCADET LA GRANGE – 5 litre BIB
DOMAINE DU VERGER, MUSCADET DE SEVRE ET MAINE SUR LIE
DOMAINE DU VERGER, MUSCADET DE SEVRE ET MAINE SUR LIE – ½ bottle
MUSCADET DE SEVRE ET MAINE, CLOS DES ALLEES
“L” D’OR DE LUNEAU
MUSCADET DE SEVRE ET MAINE “LE CLOS DES NOELLES” GOULAINE
MUSCADET “TERRE DE PIERRE” DE PIERRE-MARIE
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The Amphibolite Nature has lovely, bright, fresh and minerally nose, with a slightly herby element. Quite precise in style, well
defined, with firm acids and a balanced texture and weight. Very zippy, with lots of fabulous appeal, and easy to drink.
Amphibolite Nature rings with tastes of green and red apple, lemon rind, and white flower, and then add on a little oyster
shell and sage for a smart finish.
Landron’s vineyards display many of the terroirs that can be found across the Muscadet appellations, including gneiss and
orthogneiss, and even sandstone. Thereafter comes Le Fief du Breil, a wine from clay, flint and orthogneiss soils. A similar
mix of rocks and soils, including clay and flint, with the addition of schist and micaschist, characterises the soils of Chateau
de la Carizière.
Château La Carizière displays an intense minerality with a very floral style again. The palate is sappy and shows some good
substance, and there is certainly some grip and structure evident too. Nicely composed, with an elegant acid backbone, and it
is quite long too.
While this wine is lighter in body than the granite or gabbro based wines, Fief du Breuil is aromatically extremely pretty and
has a shimmering mineral character making it a superb accompaniment to oysters or Dover sole with a butter sauce. Lemon,
almond, stone and truffle aromas and stony anise-tinged flavours on the palate.
Melonix is where Asterix naturally meets Musca-tache. Indigenous yeasts, no sulphur and bottled without fining or filtration.
The ‘hands-off’ approach also facilitates malolactic fermentation. It has a very expressive nose, very floral and minerally too,
elegant but also open and accessible. The palate shows a very deep and sappy character, with a floral expression like that on
the nose, alongside a white fruit character. A richly styled Melon, no doubt the malolactic contributing something here, with
citrus fruit elements such as tangerine, and white grape. Yes, it has le crunch in abundamce. Getafix of Melonix! (you know
what I’m talking about).
MUSCADET AMPHIBOLITE - magnum
VIN DE FRANCE “MELONIX”
MUSCADET DE SEVRE ET MAINE SUR LIE CLOS LA CARIZIERE
MUSCADET DE SEVRE ET MAINE SUR LIE LE FIEF DU BREIL
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DOMAINE DE LA PEPIERE, MARC OLLIVIER & REMI BRANGER, Muscadet – Organic
Marc Ollivier of Domaine de la Pépière is an example of a winemaker who has grown with his vines. In the early 1980’s Marc, who
was an engineer at the time, decided to move to the country for a slower pace of life. His father owned some vineyards in the cool
Atlantic-influenced zone of Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine but was not a winemaker. Marc took over his father’s vineyards and bought a
parcel called Clos de Briords from an elderly neighbour. Marc’s first vintage was 1985 and his primary goal as a winemaker at the
time was to simply complete fermentation. As such, he began fermentation using cultured yeasts and finished the wine off with a
dose of SO2. As Marc matured as a winemaker, he experimented with ambient yeasts and began bottling with minimal amounts of
SO2. The results were extraordinary; the wines showed greater depth, richness and complexity. Encouraged by his success, Marc
began transitioning all his vineyards to organic and continued his minimalist approach in the winery. His racy, lemon-tinged,
mineral-driven Muscadets have since become the benchmark for the region and have opened up a world of previously unknown
potential in the area. Marc’s success is combination of good fortune (his vineyards were never touched by wine consultants
encouraging new, higher yield clones) and an open minded, experimental approach to making the best possible wines. Some points:
• Many of Marc’s vines are 40+ years old and some of his vineyards are planted on granite soils, a rarity in the region. • All the
vineyards are from original stock: Ollivier is the only grower in the Muscadet who does not have a single clonal selection in his
vineyards • Marc Ollivier hand harvests (a rarity in the region) and uses only natural yeasts for fermentation. Extended lees
contact, often till April or May of the following year, adds added depth to the wines,
The Muscadet from Pepière is an excellent example. The wine is lemony, stony and bracing on the palate. This is all the more
remarkable as 2012 was a difficult year. There was bad weather during flowering which caused a reduction in the crop by 50%.
Fortunately, dry and sunny weather in the weeks leading to harvest salvaged the vintage.
La Pepie is a little Côt from younger vines, between 6 and 11 years of age, a vibrant, bright and fruity wine with excellent
texture, freshness and balance. Flowery (violets) on the nose, soft jucy raspberry fruit on the palate with good tension from
the acidity. Uncomplicated yet utterly enjoyable. 100% tank fermented
MUSCADET SUR LIE
MUSCADET SUR LIE VIEILLES VIGNES “CLOS DES BRIORDS”
VDP LA PEPIE COT ROUGE
DOMAINE DE LA SENECHALIERE, MARC PESNOT, Muscadet – Organic
The domaine comprises approximately 13 hectares of vines, mostly Melon de Bourgogne although in recent years Marc has also
been working with Abouriou (q.v. Elian da Ros and Marmandais). The soils are schistous, and many of the vines well over 50 years
of age; for Miss Terre the vines are up to 80 years old. He works organically, labouring the soil and opting for 101irabel, essential
oils and copper treatments over synthetic products. This ‘natural’ feel continues into the cellar where he uses a minimal amount of
sulphur, with a single addition of about 20 mg only at the time of bottling.
What distinguishes the Miss Terre from the rest of his portfolio, however, is malolactic fermentation; not a process generally
associated with Muscadet. As a consequence, it has a lower acidity than we might expect from Melon, as indicated on the label
where Marc has written “Ce vin est sec, mais pas acide”. The wine is initially muted on the nose, but it soon opens out to reveal
some delightfully well defined and grippy fruit characteristics, with scents of pear and citrus pith, alongside elements of white
pepper and also a very faint seam of bright, perfumed almond. The palate is quite exhilarating, with a deep texture, piles of almost
sherbetty minerality and a rich, flavoursome substance. Underneath it all there is moderate acidity in keeping with the malolactic,
and it is the bite of the minerally component that contributes most to the structure of the wine. The fruit has a savoury vein, and the
wine a bright, vibrant, pithy finish, with an appealing bitterness to the fruit here.
La Bohème is dynamic and delicious, another wine that transcends apparently melony mundaneness. Grapes are harvested by hand
at their maximum ripeness & destemmed. The fruit undergoes a slow manual pressing & the wine rests on the lees in temperature
controlled stainless steel tanks for at least nine months. This is a pure & natural expression of old vines Melon and the schist terroir
they thrive in. Cloudy straw in the glass with pretty notes of white flowers, pear, green apple & pounded stones. The palate is
& creamy with elegant white fruit flavours boosted by succulent minerality & a creamy dash of vibrant acidity.
Pesnot harvests his
Folle Blanche grapes from 60 to 80 years old vines when they are ripe by lowering yields and not by adding any sugar. The wine is
floral and delicious and made without any addtives bar a little SO2. The fermentation oftan lasts up to 6 months (on wild yeasts)
which gives one an idea of why the wine is so different when you consider the usual 8 days needed by the commercial wineries
around, using added lab yeasts.
FOLLE BLANCHE VIEILLES VIGNES
VIN DE FRANCE MELON BLANC “LA BOHEME”
VIN DE FRANCE MELON BLANC VIEILLES VIGNES “MISS TERRE”
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