Domaine Louvetrie "Fief du Breil" vineyard

Muscadet, The Flavor of Stone: Bossard, Luneau-Papin, Louvetrie, Pépière, Brégeon and More!

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We're happy to acknowledge the fine article on Muscadet by Eric Asimov in the New York Times (Currently on-line, in the print edition this Wednesday) by offering our full selection of these great and affordable wines from our favorite producers. Please note some recent arrivals to Chambers Street, including two young organic growers, Stéphane Orieux and Jérôme Brétaudeau (at Domaine Belle Vue), as well as our new friends at Domaine Parentière who have been organic for over 30 years! For a bit of history and geology, read on.

South and east of the French city of Nantes, about 25 kilometers upstream from where the Loire River empties into the Atlantic, the appellation of ­Muscadet–Sèvre et Maine covers approximately 8,000 hectares of the southern bank — plateaus and gently rolling hills, which descend to the Sèvre and Maine rivers, tributaries of the Loire. The scenery is bucolic but unspectacular, and the French consider the wine uninspiring. They buy it in supermarkets for three euros to wash down their oysters and mussels or to sip on vacation in Brittany. The average citizen of Nantes is unaware that great wine exists on his doorstep. At Chambers Street Wines, however, we are somewhat obsessed with Muscadet and the small group of superb growers who make distinctive wines of terroir from the acidic soils. The aromas of Muscadet are subtle, hinting at lemon peel, pear, white peach, and flowers often with — in a ripe vintage — a touch of fennel or licorice. What makes the wine special is its extraordinary minerality: tastes of wet stone, flint, and earth with a saline, acidic finish. And although many wine writers advise drinking Muscadet within two years of the vintage, we're very happy to have a few older bottles to sell (and in my cellar) as the best wines age beautifully for 20 years and more.

Melon de Bourgogne is “not a noble grape,” according to Jancis Robinson’s authoritative Oxford Companion to Wine. Yet despite, or perhaps because of, the grape’s lack of breeding, the land imparts its particular qualities to the wine. During the Precambrian era a vast upwelling deep within the earth brought molten material, mostly granites, to the surface. It formed what is called the Massif Armori­­cain, which underlies Brittany, Normandy, and the lower Loire Valley. A later period of enormous pressures and uplifts left folds of metamorphic schists and gneiss with veins of the original granites and of the dark, granular, very hard stone called gabbro, a more alkaline volcanic rock similar to basalt. Millions of years of erosion then leveled the area along the Sèvre and Maine, so it lacks the distinctive features of more famous wine regions.

The ancient granites and the minerals they contain, principally quartz, feldspar, and mica, have weathered into nutrient-rich clays. Combined with sands, silicas, and various other stones, they make vineyard soils that are unique in France. The geologist James Wilson, in his fine book, Terroir, writes that these granite soils are acidic, which helps the vines assimilate micronutrients, such as iron, zinc, manganese, and copper. The granites — occurring elsewhere in France in certain Alsatian grands crus (Sommerberg, Brand, Schlossberg), the volcanic hills of the Haut-Beaujolais, and the western edge of the Massif Central (Hermitage, Côte Rôtie, Cornas) — give the best Muscadets their ethereal, palate-exciting minerality when young, and the acidity and structure necessary to evolve into wines of great complexity and distinction.

Bu the future of Muscadet is unclear. “It’s difficult for young people to continue,” Marc Ollivier said. “If their parents are winemakers, they see how little money is made, and if they sell to négociants they don’t make a living. And today banks won’t lend to a young vigneron because prices are so low.” About 50 top growers are involved in an effort to create a grand cru classification for Muscadet, which they recognize as their best chance for higher prices and economic survival. A number of “Crus Communals,” defined by terroir and location, are proposed, including “Gorgeois” on gabbro, “Clisson” on granite, "Château Thébaud" on granite,  “Le Pallet” on orthogneiss and gabbro, and “Goulaine” on mica-schists and gneiss. “The objective,” according to Romain Mayet of the Syndicat de Défense de l’AOC Muscadet, “is to recognize by Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée certain great Muscadets known for their richness, their complexity, and their capacity to age.” Each Cru Communal would designate the best vineyards in its sector, limit yields, mandate a minimum aging on the lees of 17 to 24 months (depending on the cru), and each producer’s wine would have to be accepted by a tasting panel. Two Cru Communal wines are included in today's offer - the brilliant 2010  "Goulaine" from Luneau-Papin and the superb "Château Thébaud" from Domaine de la Pepiere. As wine lovers acknowledged in the 18th and 19th centuries, and as I have found repeatedly in tasting, the Pays Nantais can produce outstanding wines of terroir that age beautifully and that offer the consumer an outstanding and affordable accompaniment to diverse cuisines. Let us hope that changes in the rules for AOC Muscadet–Sèvre et Maine and more attention from the press and consumers will enable the tradition to continue. (Portions of this article first appeared in 2010 in The Art of Eating as "The Flavor of Stone.") (Restaurants offering a wide range of Muscadet including older vintages are Racines NY, 94 Chambers Street and Maison Premiere, 298 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn). DL

Luneau-Papin 2010 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Le "L" d'Or"

A beautiful L d'Or that shows the remarkable combination of ripeness, balance and great acidity in the 2010 vintage. This wine was surprisingly open and aromatic when tasted in January 2012 but possessed of perfect acidity and loads of saline mineral flavors, reminding us of 2002.

  • white
  • 23 in stock
  • $33.99

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Luneau-Papin 2012 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Terres de Pierres

This fascinating wine is from a new parcel of 40 year-old vines, La Butte de la Roche, high on a dome of igneous rock with quartz stones and serpentine minerals overlooking the marshes of Goulaine. The young Pierre-Marie Luneau is in charge here and is doing great vineyard work, reclaiming this wonderful site. The 2012 has subtle, delicate aromas of stone, mushroom, citrus and earth. The palate is all minerals, with hints of white fruits, white pepper and herbs. Quite intense and with very firm acidity, the wine will be perfect with sushi, broiled fish, roast chicken, goat cheeses, and should age beautifully for 15 years or more.

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $21.99

Luneau-Papin 2010 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine "Goula Clos des Noelles

The Luneau-Papin "Clos des Noelles" is one of my favorite Muscadets, usually a bit rounder than the granite-soil "L D'Or" but always aromatically complex and with great intensity and length. In 2010 the wine received the Cru Communal "Goulaine" label, having spent 36 months sur-lie, and having passed the other requirements for "Cru" status.  The vines were planted in 1936 on a terroir of "micaschistes a deux micas," the grapes are hand-harvested and undergo a slow wild yeast fermentation. The aromas are subtle and complex with lemon-oil, dried mushroom, stone, anise, and white pepper. The palate is round and dense but light and ultra-dry with bitter citrus, stone, almond and floral notes. Really a brilliant young Muscadet  that should be decanted, and that will age beautifully.

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $33.99

Luneau-Papin Delete 2005 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Le "L" d'Or

Another great effort from the Luneau-Papin family, and not much stock remains of this excellent vintage. Tasted in November 2015. When opened the aromas are subtle with lime-flower, lemon oil, earth, mushroom and herbal notes. With aeration the aromas gain depth and the crystalline palate shows it's density with dried fruits, mushroom, stone, anise and citrus. Fresh pear, earth and minerals linger in the long finish. This is beginning to sing at ten years of age, drink now or until 2030. Decant or open one hour before serving.

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $32.99

Luneau-Papin 1999 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Le "L" d'Or (Arrives 6/3)

(Tasted in 2010) Wow, the 1999 "L" is finally beginning to sing! Aromas of lemon oil, thyme, stone, still quite fresh. The palate is opening with complex citrus and exotic fruit with of course a healthy dose of almost bitter stony minerality and a beautiful finish. A gorgeous wine that will continue to improve for another ten years at least...

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $61.99

Louvetrie 2012 Muscadet Amphibolite Nature

Jo Landron's Amphibolite is always one of the freshest and most lively of Muscadet. Named after the rocks, rich in iron and magnesium, prevalent in the vineyard, over a bedrock of gneiss. There are lovely aromas of white fruits and citrus in this ripe, low-yielding vintage and a bit more alcohol at 12%. Pear and quince on the palate with the usual saline acidity always present in this wine. Refreshingly delicious as an apéritif, perfect with oysters and seafood.

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $14.99

Louvetrie 2012 Vin de France Melonix (No added SO2)

Melonix is a 'vin de table' from 20 year old organically tended Melon de Bourgogne vines. Jo Landron and his team harvest by hand, ferment with indigenous yeast, and vinify this wine without filtration or added sulfur. Lovely aromatics, with sublte mineral notes behind round fruit. This is definitely a bit fatter than some of Landron's other cuvees, expressing some creamy lemon character, but maintaining a clean mineral finish. It's a real joy to drink and remarkably pure for a wine without added sulfur. EPL

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  • $18.99

Louvetrie (Jo Landron) 2012 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Les Houx

Marc Ollivier's Domaine de la Pépière always sets the standard for great values in Muscadet, but let's give a nod to our friend Jo Landron as well! His Domaine Louvetrie "Les Houx" (formerly labeled "Hermine D'Or") is from a great parcel of shallow sandy clay soils, rich with silica, quartz and iron, over a bedrock of gneiss and clay. A great terroir for Muscadet that always gives a dense, complex wine which benefits from medium-term aging. The 2012 is a great example and a sensational value. Lovely pale bronze color. A bit closed when first opened, then showing aromas of ripe pear, apple, lemon oil, a field in the sun, a hint of spice. The palate is dense with white fruits, stone, hay and citrus with perfect bracing acidity. Rather full-bodied for a Muscadet, this will accompany crab, lobster and monkfish as well as chicken, pork, Asian foods and goat cheeses. Or hold for a few years and serve with full-flavored fish dishes. Bravo, Jo Landron!

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $14.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic

Louvetrie (Jo Landron) 2000 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Fiefs du Breil

Tasted at the domaine in the fall of 2008, this wine showed fabulously, with lovely aromas of lemon confit, white fruits, mushrooms and earth. The palate was very mineral with stone and gun-metal, mushroom, earth and citrus. Really a lovely wine which should be in full maturity now. Thank-you, Jo Landron!                                                                                                                                   **This wine is in the warehouse and will not be available for pick-up or delivery until after Labor Day.**

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $44.99

Parentière 2012 Vin de France (Organic) Fraîcheur Iodée L'Atlantique

The Parentière Fraîcheur Iodée de L'Atlantique, which roughly translates as "Atlantic sea-spray" is made from Gros Plant (aka Folle Blanche) grown on gabbro soils near Vallet in the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine region. Domaine de la Parentière is a tiny estate which has been practicing organic agriculture for more than 30 years—the grapes are hand-harvested and fermented with wild yeasts and the wines are never chaptalized, remaining light, mineral and refreshing. At 10.2% alcohol, this wine is light and lovely with subtle aromas of citrus, herbs and wet stone with vibrant, fresh acidity. The intriguing finish with hints of almond, citrus and earth is typical of the gabbro soils. Perfect with shellfish and seafood or quaffed outdoors on a hot summer day, this wine is a superb and refreshing value!

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $9.99

  • Organic

Parentière 2012 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Vieilles Vignes

Michel and Guilhaume Ménager produce this lovely Musacdet on their tiny estate near Vallet, which they have tended organically for more than 30 years. The sub-soil is gabbro, a type of basalt, that gives a unique aromatic quality to the wine, quite different from wines produced on the normal granite or gneiss/schiste soils of Muscadet. The Ménagers have always harvested by hand and never chaptalize, producing wines that are light, refreshing and very "mineral" in character. The 2012 Muscadet Cuvée Vieilles Vignes shows subtle aromas of citrus, melon, almond and stone—a difficult to describe melange typical to wines from gabbro soils. Light and refreshing at 12% alcohol, with stone, citrus and herbal flavors, this is a beautiful Muscadet to enjoy with shellfish, seafood, poultry and mild cheeses. Bravo to the Ménagers for producing this delightful wine at such a low cost! DL

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $11.99

  • Organic

Brégeon, Michel 2011 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie

Although we love Brégeon's wines that receive long-term sur-lie aging (the 2002 Gorgeois was bottled in 2009) we also love his "regular" bottling which is always among the most dense and mineral-flavored of all Muscadet.  Very careful hand-harvesting in small containers, no-pumping, no SO2 during vinification, wild yeast fermentations. Michel is one of the true heroes of the Muscadet, along with Guy Bossard, who kept alive the tradition of age-worthy natural wines. This is a fascinating and serious food wine at an insanely low price. Aromas of lemon, hazelnut, flowers and stone that continue on the palate with firm acidity and dusty mineral and citrus flavors in the finish. Serve with full-flavored shellfish, a spicy ceviche, grilled swordfish or halibut...

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $15.49

Brégeon 2009 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Réserve

From a vintage known for ripeness and soft acidity, this old vines offering from Michel Brégeon is an exception. Aromas of lime and stone fruit, with subtle notes of grapefruit zest on the palate and ample minerality, which many attribute to the volcanic Gabbro soils that host the majority of Brégeon's vines. It's really shimmering now with bright acidity and crispness, and should be a great candidate for the cellar as well! EPL

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $35.99

  • Organic

Orieux (Bregeonnette) 2012 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Clos de la Coudray

Stéphane Orieux's father Joseph converted the estate to organic agriculture back in 1967, and Stéphane has continued (now certified by Ecocert) the great vineyard work of this father. Clos de la Coudraye is a great parcel in Vallet on granite subsoil with very old vines. The 2012 is a lovely wine with ripe aromas of lemon confit, melon, dried herbs and pear; the palate is dense with stone, citrus, pear and anise flavors. A classic Muscadet from granite soils, drink now or hold up to 10 years.

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $16.99

Belle Vue (Jérôme Brétaudeau) 2012 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine (Gabbro)

Jérôme Brétaudeau has gradually put together a 9 hectare estate with parcels on different soils, based in Gétigné, near Clisson, and has worked for Joe Landron and Guy Bossard, among others. His 2012 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine is from parcels around Vallet on Gabbro soils, tended organically. The grapes are hand-harvested and undergo a slow wild-yeast fermentation and minimal sulfur is used. The wine shows the distinctive aromas and richness of Muscadet from Gabbro soils with wet stone, flint, herbal and melon notes. The palate is ripe but very mineral with bitter almond, lemon confit and pear liqueur with lingering saline acidity. An impressive effort from M. Brétaudeau and a great value as well!

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $13.99

Pépière 2013 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie

Now is the time to buy the 2013 Pépière Muscadet as the later bottlings contain juice from the older vines giving a denser, more mineral wine. Subtle hints of citrus, herbal and white fruit aromas, the palate is dense and mineral with firm acidity with more weight and length than the fruitier first bottling. Really refreshing and perfect for hot weather!

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $14.99

Pépière 2013 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Clos des Briords

The "invigorating" 2013 Clos des Briords is a bit leaner than the 2012, with subtle aromas of sea-spray and wet stone, lemon flowers and thyme with hints of pear. The palate has mouth-coating citrusy acids with anise, apple and pear with a finish that is all minerals. This vintage has great purity and firm acidity, making it fabulously refreshing and a great match with oysters, crudo and grilled fish. Cellar for ten to fifteen years and serve with full-flavored fish and poultry dishes and goat cheeses. A "classic" Clos des Briords as Marc Ollivier says, a great "food wine" and a great value, as always!

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $17.99

Pépière 2010 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Ch.Thébaud Clos Morines

The 2009 Château Thébaud Clos des Morines was our favorite wine of the vintage from Domaine de la Pépière and the 2010 is no less outstanding! As Rémi Branger of Pépière explained, the higher acidity in this vintage permitted a longer, three year élevage sur lie, giving the wine great density, complexity and structure. Beautiful aromas of citrus peel, apple blossom, pear and stone. The palate is dense with saline mineral, citrus, white fruits and wet stone. Really long with great acidity and depth. This is a great Muscadet— drink now with any elegant seafood dish of keep ten to twenty years and serve with lobster, monkfish and aged goat cheeses.... Fabulous—thank-you Marc and Rémi! UPDATE April 2015: The wine is absolutely sensational - given an hour to open up, vivid aromas of dried pear, thyme, lemon verbena and stone are followed by a dense, intensely stony palate with mineral, dried fruits, citrus, and earth. Fabulous length with a miraculous mineral finish. OK, I'm a little over-enthusiastic, but this wine puts $100 white Burgundies to shame....($23.39 per bottle on a case purchase!)

 

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $29.99

  • Organic