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Terroir in the AOC Muscadet Sèvre et Maine is largely a story of granite, resulting from a billion-year-old upswelling of molten rock called the Massif Armoricain. Some of this granite remains near the surface where it has weathered to unique nutrient-rich clays, in other areas it has been changed into metamorphic schists and gneiss giving somewhat lighter soils. Since 1984, Marc Ollivier at Domaine de la Pépière, now joined by Rémi Branger and Gwénaëlle Croix, has been producing some of the finest wines in the Loire Valley, primarily from vineyards on the granitic soils around Maisdon-sur-Sèvre and Clisson. The most complex and long-aging Muscadets have generally been produced from these granite terroirs, such as Domaine de l'Ecu's "Expression de Granite," Luneau-Papin's "L d'Or" - and Pépière's "Clos des Briords" (from old vines on Granite de Chateau Thebault, first produced in 1988). (2019 was Marc's last vintage, with Rémi and Gwénaëlle now firmly and capably in charge of this great estate)
Growers around the town of Clisson who have vineyards on the unique, very dense granite of the area, with well-draining topsoils of clay with gravel and rolled-stones, petitioned the INAO for "Cru Communal" status, reflecting their unusual soils and involving stringent quality standards, and in 2005 Marc Ollivier produced his first "Granite de Clisson" from a plot of 60 to 90 year-old vines in the Pépière vineyard. Aged on the lees for 24 months, the wine possessed fantastic depth and aromatic complexity - I'm holding my last bottle for a few more years!
Which brings us to the 2019 Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet "Clisson." (Shortened to "Clisson" by the INAO, which prohibits a terroir name in an appellation.) This excellent vintage for Muscadet has produced a beautiful "Clisson," possessing great ripeness and maturity from the sunny, dry growing season, while retaining the customary acidity and freshness imparted by the clay/granite soils. Reviews in France have been fantastic - and this note from Gwénaëlle Croix: "We bottled the 2019 Clisson in November of 2021, after two years aging on the lies, as we always do. It comes from a hot, sunny vintage, thus the alcohol percentage is relatively high at 13.5%, but one really doesn't sense it. The palate is full and framed in very firm acidity and citrus flavors, with a slight touch of smokiness (un petit côté fumé)." The Pépière Clisson is always one of the most elegant, silky and ethereal of all Muscadet - don't miss it!
Note: The quantity avalable is quite a bit less than in the last vintage (2017) - the importer tells us that this is the only release of the 2019 so please don't delay. And if you've missed any of the great recent releases from Domaine de la Pépière, now's your chance before they sell out... (Wines arrive late January)
The Domaine de la Pépière Cru Communal Château Thébaud comes from old vines in vineyards with great terroir on slopes overlooking the river Maine. The granite here (Granite de Château Thébaud, oddly enough) is fissured and permeable by the vine roots which have access to water during dry spells and absorb micro-nutrients along the way. 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014 here were among the best of the vintage in Muscadet and the 2017 will stand out as well due to the combination of density and minerality with the very firm acidity of this very good vintage year for Muscadet - those of you lucky enough to have the 2014 in your cellar understand just what a special wine this is. Notes from Remi Branger: "For the Château Thébaud 2017 - we harvested on the 2nd of September and did a longer elevage - 3 and 1/2 years sur lie, and we bottled it in the spring of 2021. We had thought to do a 4 year elevage but we realized that the exchange between the lies and the wine was occuring faster than usual. We have a beautiful Château Thébaud with aromas of white flowers and a touch of white peach; on the palate the density and power arrive in the finish which is less structured than the 2014 but is more structured and brighter than the 2015." The 2014 Château Thébaud is one of my favorite Muscadet, though it needs 5 more years to really open up, and the 2017 is not far behind - perhaps a bit more precocious, thus beautiful to drink now or to age for 20 years. David Lillie
The 2017 Pépière Cru Communal Monnières - Saint-Fiacre is from a parcel of old vines on bedrock of gneiss, rich in minerals such as feldspar, mica and iron, with sandy limestone topsoils. The Cru is in the heart of the Muscadet region, bordered on the north by the Sevre river and to the southeast by the Maine. Notes from Remi Branger: "In 2017 there was frost in some parcels of Château Thebaud and Clisson but almost none in Monnières-Saint-Fiacre. 2017 is a very beautiful vintage where we find great freshness and structure. We harvested the Monnières parcel on September 7th and after two months of fermentation the wine spent 3 years sur-lie, during which time we performed 3 batonnages - we bottled it in November 2020. I don't know if you remember but at the salons (Jan - Feb 2020) the samples showed beautifully and were all in delicacy. The wine remains in that style, very pure and fine with notes of citrus with a bit of iodine and very lightly fumé." The wine is less dense than "Clisson" and "Château Thebaud" but our notes from 2020 indicate an equally great Muscadet - ethereal, classy, pure and very long. A great wine for drinking over the next ten to fifteen years. David Lillie