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Loire 2012: Muscadet

So the potential for quality within the 2012 vintage for Muscadet is fine, and early tastes bear this out; there are some super wines in this vintage. They have fruit richness, concentration and substance, part of which must be down to the low yields, the silver lining to all the wet and cold weather during flowering, but I also suspect it would have all come to nothing if it hadn't been for the eventual arrival of summer during August and September. In addition, the wines show wonderfully vibrant acidities, giving them an exciting presence on the palate. And there is minerality here, many wines showing delightful salinity, or a more stony, solid substance in the case of some grander cuvées. There are style here to suit every type of drinker, fun and accessible wines for drinking now, and more cerebral wines that will require time in the cellar to reveal their true potential.

Despite this happy song, the Nantais as a region remains in crisis, the low yields of 2012 pouring financial misery for the vignerons, on top of that which followed the frost of 2008. The area committed to vine within the appellation has shrunk from 13000 to less than 8000 hectares since 2008. The great names - Pépière, Landron, Luneau-Papin and the like - naturally soldier on. But elsewhere in the region there is bankruptcy and despair. Buy the 2012 Muscadets - you won't be disappointed in the quality of the wines, which have a lovely tension and definition to them, together with confident fruit expression, overall a delicious combination. And, as a bonus, you might just save someone's livelihood. (19/2/13)

Loire 2012: Muscadet, Tasting Notes

The following wines were tasted in London and in the Loire Valley, in January 2013 and February 2013 respectively, as indicated. The tastings that were the origin of these notes include the Charles Sydney Loire Benchmark tasting, the Renaissance tasting in Angers, Dive Bouteille at Château de Brézé near Saumur, and the Salon des Vins de Loire in Angers. Click to locate stockists.

London, January 2013


Château de la Tarcière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2012: There is a rather perfumed, aromatic, musky sense to the nose here, which certainly seems quite forward. And there is a sweet edge to the fruit, with a slightly confected note. It has a rather ripe, full and fleshy character on the palate, with an appealing acid core, quite finely done, although the fruit around it feels quite diffuse. It has a nice, correct substance though, and an appealing salinity in the finish, as well as some appealing bite to contrast with the fleshy fruit. 14.5-15.5/20

Domaine de la Chauvinière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2012: I find sweet, open, rather evocative fruit notes here, with a concentrated, almost desiccated character to it, but also a welcome suggestion of musky salinity too. The palate is full, but direct and nicely cut through by the acids at its core, although it still feels quite full in the middle. Very correct fruit here, a tinge of minerality, feeling quite saline towards the finish. Classic but also approachable. 15-16/20

Château de la Templerie Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2012: The nose here is one of chalky, talc-like minerality, with sweet fruit nuances playing second fiddle here. It is certainly inspiring, expressive and classic. It possesses a youthful, full, richly textured palate, with the minerally bite and lemon-salt character coming through with the fruit very nicely too. There is lots of bite here, firm acids too, but it has the substance to cope, and plenty of minerally, saline interest. 15.5-16.5/20

Domaine des Herbauges Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu sur lie 2012: Under screwcap. This has a rather muted nose compared to some of the very expressive wines that came before it. It feels musky, but also withdrawn, only slowly opening in the glass. There is a rather straight fruit character in the middle, with nice substance and a correct character. Attractive, grippy and with a touch of energy to it, but good rather than stunning. 14.5-15.5/20

Domaine des Herbauges Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu sur lie Le Fief Guerin 2012: Under screwcap. Some green fruit character on the nose here, with some classic musky scents mixed in with the notes of grass, along with hints of sweet lemon pie. The palate is quite harmonious at the start, seemingly understated, then through the middle it shows a little more energy and form. There is also a hint of pith to it. Not a real step up from the entry-level wine. 14.5-15.5/20

Château de la Bretesche Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2012: A very classic nose here, the musky notes laid over some fruit with a good sense of sweetness and ripeness to it. There is some immediately apparent energy on the palate, and a good sense of acidity running through the core of the wine, giving it a lovely definition. Through the middle I find evident energy and definition, a saline-tinged, palate-cleansing character, but with a gentle cushion of fruit behind. Very good indeed. 16-17/20

Domaine de la Tourmaline Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2012: Under screwcap. There is a real intensity to the fruit on the nose here, with a really challenging character (which I like), the bright lemon fruit contrasted against saline and freshly struck flint. There follows a very harmonious palate at the start, very polished and correct fruit, sleek and with some concentration, and with a fine-boned acid seam at its heart. A really tangy citrus character here, mixed with all that saline minerality in the finish. Delicious. 16.5-17.5/20

Domaine des Herbauges Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu sur lie La Roche Blanche 2012: Under screwcap. A lovely nose here, with white fruit reminiscent of peach, and pear, sprinkled with pepper, salt and minerals. The palate brings a gentle floral fruit with these pear and orchard nuances coming in behind, and there is a very elegant application of minerally saline underneath it all. Overall this is very stylish and yet effusively accessible. Delicious. 16.5-17.5/20

Bonnet-Huteau Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Les Dabinières 2012: Some real fruit character here, with hints of yellow peach, thyme, sea salt and more. The palate has a very fleshy and open character, with a broad and flattering feel as it relaxes in the mouth. There is a sense of vigour and acid to it, but it is a touch more subtle than it is in some other wines. All the same, this is a very attractive wine, with some classic lines. 16-17/20

Château Cléray Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2012: This has a different character on the nose to a number of the other wines tasted here, as it is showing a hugely minerally, matchsticky reductive character. It is difficult to get behind it all honesty, although there are no other worrying aromas here. Leaving it to open up in the glass for a while, there are citrus scents as well as hints of pear fruit. A finely tuned palate, the reductive elements come through here as well, but so does the concentrated, rather glossy fruit. Nice acids, pithy and lightly mineral. Good potential here. 16.5-17.5/20

Vin de Pays

Jérémie Mourat OVNI Sacré Blanc Sauvignon Blanc Plus (VdP du Val de Loire) 2012: Something different to complement all the Muscadet! Rounded and polished fruit on the nose here, slightly fat and smoky, with scents of peach and pear fruit underlying it all. There is some flesh on the palate in keeping with this rather fat feel to the nose, some good definition, and an attractively integrated acidity. It has a pithy finish, although it feels perhaps a touch rough around the edges here. 14-15/20

Angers & Saumur, February 2013


Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Pierre de la Grange Vieilles Vignes 2012: The soils that give rise to this cuvée are schist. The nose is fresh, vibrant, suggestive of some concentration, certainly expressive. In the mouth it shows a supple character to the palate, which is bright and well-rounded, fresh and nicely composed. There is a minerally vein to it, both on the palate and also within the aromatics. A harmonious wine, full of potential. 16-17/20

Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Le L d'Or 2012: Here we have an expression of granite within the vintage; we have a polished and rather reserved nose, still with a fresh and bright composition though. Remarkably, despite this rather restrained start, the palate has a vibrant, effusive minerality, defined and bright. The granite comes through in a classic, stony substance, the middle showing plenty of texture and minerals. This is potentially a great vintage for L d'Or. Due to be bottled September 2013. 17.5-18.5/20

Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Terre de Pierre de la Butte de la Roche 2012: This is destined to be the third vintage from this vineyard which was acquired in 2008, the family having skipped the 2011 vintage. The terroir here is rhyolite, a volcanic mineral. Destined to see 13 months sur lie before bottling, which must be close to the maximum as the cut-off is the end of November in the year after the harvest. The style here is supple, quite classic, very pure, lifted with minerally character. A rather fat style to the palate ensures, showing richness but still defined by some fine acids. A good substance, and fine potential here. 17-18/20

Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Clos des Noëlles Excelsior 2012: This is the Goulaine cuvée, this schistous terroir set to be recognised in the second round of cru ratification later this year. The plan here is for three years sur lie before bottling. Fresh, pure, open, rich. Very supple palate, polished, minerally and acid though, but with white fruit. A firm stony finish. There is great potential here. Clearly this is a very classic and pure, energetic vintage. 17-18/20

Domaine de la Louvetrie Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Amphibolite Nature 2012: A sample from cuve. Bright, effervescent, lifted and minerally, with a saline suggestion, overall very open, expressive and aromatic. A lovely concentration on the palate, showing great energy, full of texture, bright and fresh, with minerals and grip. Wonderfully challenging acidity here too. Great wine. It stands up very well to several grander cuvées, from 2011 and 2010, poured alongside. 16.5-17.5/20

Domaine de la Louvetrie Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2012: Still en cuve. A very fresh nose here, with a green-white fruit character, and some lightly pithy fruit. I sense some real energy here. A full texture, vigorous as the nose indicated, a supple palate, full of the flesh of the vintage, but complemented by electric acidity and mineral edge. A very impressive wine. 16-17/20

Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2012: This cuvée is sourced from vines in conversion to organic viticulture, aged 20-30 years. It is a cuvée destined for foreign markets, whereas the fully bio cuvee is for the domestic market. To be bottled in April. The aromatics here feel fruit-rich and open, floral, yet bright and energetic. The findings on the palate are in keeping with this, showing good fruit here, and full substance. It is concentrated and fresh, with a cool, bright character. A very attractive wine with good potential. 15-16/20

Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2012: This cuvée comes from vines fully converted and certified as organic, and will be bottled separately, although Rémi Branger expects sales to be restricted to France. These were the first vines converted to organics on the estate. This has a bright, pure and fresh nose, showing delightfully defined white fruit character. A more effusive palate, bright and open, accessible and attractive, energetic too. This is a wine full of substance, with a real texture to it. There is certainly a notable and impressive difference between the two cuvées; this one is preferable to me. 16-17/20

Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Clos des Briords 2012: A sample from cuve, to be bottled in May. From 60 to 70-year old vines grown on Château Thébaud granite. This has a beautifully saline, soft, effusive minerality to it, showing a really rich depth, and great fruit concentration. A supple palate, with rich fruit as per the nose, backed up by a racy tension running underneath the midpalate's exciting substance. There is a remarkable acid and mineral texture to it. This is very exciting, one of the better examples of Clos des Briords in recent years, and certainly a strong wine within the vintage. 17-18/20

Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu sur lie 2012: A vibrant and pungent nose here, full of white fruit, rather sweet in character but not confected, instead fresh, redolent of pears, very precise and tinged with floral nuances. The palate itself is full, rich and broad, with quite exciting acidity. Lots of expressive fruit character here as well, especially pear skin, backed up by good acidity, freshness and bite, and a hint of white-pepper grip. Lots of substance, lots of potential too. 15-16/20

Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu sur lie Le Pavillon 2012: Granite and micaschist terroir here. Delightfully cutting, sandy minerality on the nose, very pure, less fruit character here and showing more minerally seams. The palate is reserved, with exuberant white peach, apricots and pear flesh, underpinned by good grip, and a pithy substance. A good peppery bite in the finish. A very stylish wine with a lot of potential here. Very good indeed. 16-17/20

Folle Blanche, Vin de Pays & Vin de France

Domaine de la Sénéchalière La Folle Blanche (Vin de France) 2012: Marc Pesnot's interpretation of this variety, now more commonly found under this synonym rather than as Gros Plant. A very perfumed, aromatic nose here. The palate feels fresh, with some sweetly fragrant fruit. It has a lightly musky quality, and seems to be scented with notes of rosemary and white melon. Full, quite concentrated, with vibrant structure and acidity beneath on the palate, making for a fresh and interesting wine. A very good example of this variety. 14.5-15.5/20

Domaine de la Sénéchalière La Bohème (Vin de France) 2012: Another sample from cuve from Marc Pesnot. This feels bright and herbal, with some very expressive fruit on the nose, scented especially with thyme. The palate has a supple texture, along with notes of white peach and thyme again. More importantly there is some real mineral character here, and lots of energy underneath it. This makes for a very exciting, vivacious wine, with vibrant potential. 16.5-17.5/20

Domaine du Haut Bourg Gros Plant du Pays Nantais sur lie 2012: This is fragrant, very floral, with a confidently perfumed nose. It is full, supple, and just as fragrant on the palate as it is on the nose. Rounded, with a rather sandy character to the fruit. It feels quite uncomplicated and straightforward. 13.5-14.5/20

Domaine du Haut Bourg Grolleau Gris (VdP du Val de Loire) 2012: From sandy, stony soils. A pretty, rather floral nose here, with a sandy character to the fruit, accompanied by a leafy freshness. A little touch of spicy almonds here. The palate is remarkably fresh and fragrant, with some supple character, good acidity and nice flesh. Surprisingly, the residual sugar is only 7 g/l; it feels rather fatter than that. Overall, lightly spicy, fleshy, easy and approachable. 14-15/20

Domaine du Haut Bourg Sauvignon Blanc (VdP du Val de Loire) 2012: From sandy, stony soils. A sandy character to the fruit on the nose here, which is otherwise bright and white, with notes of sweet, lifted fruits, together with a little pear drop confection. Polished, dry, fleshy though, with a slightly grassy-floral varietal character, and plenty of good acidity to counteract the fleshy weight. 14-15/20