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Terroir in the AOC Muscadet Sevre 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 Remi Branger and Gwenaëlle 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 been produced from granite terroirs, such as Michel Bregeon's "Cuvèe Gorgeois", 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). 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 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 and is now a beautiful wine ten years later. Which brings us to the 2015 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, with little effect from the September rains, while retaining the customary acidity and freshness imparted by the clay/granite soils. Note: The quantity avalable is less than for the 2014 - those wishing case quantities may have to wait for the second shipment arriving in late spring.
The 2015 Pépière "Monnières-Saint Fiacre" is from old vines on soils of sand and gravel over a bedrock of gneiss. It's also a terrific Muscadet in 2015, showing a bit more roundness and white fruits than the "Clisson." It will drink beautifully over the next ten years and is the perfect accompaniment for anything from the sea, and is lovely with mild cheeses as well.
The 2015 Pépières arrive on March 1st.
Bernard and Matthieu Baudry are producing some of the very finest red wines of the Loire Valley, or anywhere else for that matter, with superb organic farming and perfect winemaking and elevage. 2014, 2015 and 2016 are all superb here, especially the superb 2014s which seem to be in perfect balance, with pure expression of terroir. We happily just found 30 btls of the wonderful 2014 Baudry Chinon "Le Clos Guillot" in the warehouse. For those who missed it the first time around, here's your chance... And we love the 2015 Baudry Chinon Domaine - it's a fantastic vintage for this unique wine which is mostly from a parcel called "Les Mollières" in Saint-Louans - a fabulous terroir of clay over limestone on a rounded hilltop above the Vienne. It's drinking beautifully now and will be sensational in ten to fifteen years!
Beginning in 2005, Domaine de la Pépière has produced this cuvée from a small parcel of 50 to 110 year-old vines within the Pepiere vineyard. Originally called "Granite de Clisson" after the unique bedrock in the vineyard, Marc has changed the name to "Clisson" to agree with the new INAO Cru Communal classification. The granite is covered with gravel and clay with large stones, ensuring good drainage and deep penetration by the roots into the fissures in the bedrock, bringing the mineral elements indispensable to this wine.Tasted in France in January 2018, the wine showed a pale gold color with lovely aromas of dried pear, quince, almond, lemon-confit and stone, ripe but quite fresh. The palate was quite dense, showing firm acidity and mineral flavors supporting white fruits, citrus, anise and almond, with terrific length. This is an excellent "Clisson" with attractive forward fruit for early drinking as well as firm structure for aging of fifteen to twenty years or more. David Lillie
Domaine de la Pépière has produced this superb Cru Communal, in the new appellation Muscadet Monnières-Saint Fiacre from old vines on gneiss terroir with topsoils of sand and gravel, formerly part of the Cuvée Eden and Gras Moutons. Slow two month fermentation followed by 24 months of aging on the lees. Similar in style, but a bit softer and more aromatic than the lovely 2015 Clisson, the Monnières-Saint Fiacre shows a bit more fruit in the lovely aromas of pear, citrus, herbs and stone. The palate is round and ripe with pretty white fruits, citrus, stone and herbal flavors, and the finish is round and supple with white fruits and minerals. This is a gorgeous Muscadet to drink over the next ten years with everything from oysters to sole, cod and monkfish, even with lobster.
The Domaine de la Pépière Château Thébaud "Clos des Morines" comes from old vines on a beautiful vineyard sloping down towards the river. The granite here is fissured and permeable by the vine roots which have access to water during dry spells and absorb micro-nutrients along the way. 2009 and 2010 here were among the best of the vintage in Muscadet and the 2012 is outstanding as well from this somewhat difficult low-yielding vintage. More austere than the previous vintages, the 2012 shows subtle aromas of dried pear, herbs, citrus, almond and stone, quite subtle and elegant. The palate has excellent weight and concentration with firm acidity, without the forward fruit of the 2009 - very tight and mineral in style with terrific length. Fabulous served now with oysters, ceviche of cod, flounder and sole, and grilled fish, This should age beautifully for 20 years and more. Highly recommended. Tasted again in December of 2016, this beautiful Muscadet is beginning to open up a bit, with lovely fruit appearing in the aromas and palate, really drinking well, though obviously a wine that will benefit from another five years of aging. In 2018 the wine is singing and will be a treat on Thanksgiving!
Le Clos Guillot is a beautiful south-east facing vineyard, just east of the town of Chinon, above the Clos de l'Olive and adjacent to Le Chêne Vert. The upper slope of the parcel is clay over limestone (the lower part has sand and gravel over the rock, which permitted a tiny separate production from franc de pied vines, now mostly deceased) and the vines are young, planted from 1993 to 2000. Fermentation in wooden cuves, 12 months of aging in two to five year-old barriques, 9 additional months in unlined cement vats. We have been buying this wine since it's first production in 2000 – it's one of the most elegant and Burgundian of Chinons. In 2014, the Baudrys produced superb wines with perfect balance and lovely, pure fruit. Their precise vinifications, matched to each different terroir, with no new oak, minimal sulfur, and elevage of the right length and in the right barrel, foudre or vat, gave elegant and delicous results. The 2014 Clos Guillot is a black/purple color with red rim, showing intense aromas of red currant, boysenberry, blackberry, fines herbs, citrus and stone with hints of dark chocolate and musk. The palate shows bright, lush, sappy red and black fruits with bright acidity lifting the flavors and coating the palate with citrusy red fruits, saline minerals and wet stone. Beautiful wine! Case quantities are possible, but don't delay. DL
From 60 year-old Cabernet Franc vines on a gravel soil over sandy clay and limestone at the bottom of the hill of Sonnay in Cravant. Aged 12 months in 3 to 10 year-old barrels. Dark black/purple color with quite floral blackberry and strawberry aromas, with a bit of earth, spice and citrus. Very silky and supple on the palate ("We don't extract anymore" said Matthieu) with stony black fruits, meaty, chalky and long. Good acidity in the finish with graphite and velvety black fruits, quite elegant and closer to the 2014 in style than the other cuvées. This is a lovely "Les Grézeaux" and is highly recommended for early drinking or ten to fifteen years of cellaring. David Lillie
Cabernet Franc from the Loire is one of the greatest choices for Thanksgiving - The Baudry Chinon "Domaine" is always one of our favorite reds from the Loire Valley and it's a sensational value as well. All Cabernet Franc of course, a blend of 75% from a parcel in St. Louans, where the thin clay/limestone soils give earthy well-structured wines, with 25% from gravel soils near Cravant, giving supple fruit and freshness. Organic farming, wild-yeast fermentation, aging in 5 to 10 year-old wooden vats and casks with minimal added SO. The 2014 "Cuvée Domaine" was a sensational wine and really built to age, while the 2015 is a bit more round and forward, and even more delicious for current drinking. The wine shows a deep red/black color and beautiful aromas of ripe red and black fruits with hints of earth, roast meat, black pepper and violet. The palate is dense and sapid with supple strawberry and blackberry liqueur and mineral flavors lifted by bright acidity. The fruit is quite ripe but the wine is well balanced at 12.5% alcohol. This is a superb "Domaine" that is a bit less structured than the 2014 - it's delicious now and will be singing in 2027 as well. Highly recommended. David Lillie