André-Michel Brégeon Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Gorges 2004
I finished up my 2010 Weekend Wine reports with an exampe of Muscadet, none other than the Domaine de l'Ecu Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Expression de Gneiss 2008, blended with a few words on terroir which is just as vital here as in any other wine region. Especially so perhaps, as around Nantes the terroir is extraordinarily varied and multifaceted, and it can have such a profound effect on the style and substance of the wine. And so in the first week of 2011 I continue my focus on Muscadet and terroir, in continued anticipation of my publishing my rejuvenated guide to Muscadet, this time turning to a vigneron not (yet) heavily featured on this pages; André-Michel Brégeon and in particular his Gorges cuvée.
Last week I looked at terroir in a very broad fashion, examining why there the Nantais features such a wide diversity of rock types, and how they can be loosely grouped together. This week I am looking more closely at a project which the leading Nantais vignerons have been working on to try and bring the terroir through onto the label, in an effort to give the region's reputation a much-needed boost. The project in question aims to define a number of crus communaux, legally defined sub-appellations the names of which will be permitted to appear on the label; in order to qualify the wine in question must not only originate from the specified terroir, but it must also meet a number of viticultural and oenological criteria. For example, these wines may only be produced from vines aged at least 16 years and must be picked at less than 48 hl/ha. The élevage has to be at least 17 months (more in some cases) which means that they will go beyond the currently legally defined limit for sur lie to appear on the label (making them all troisième niveau wines - as previously discussed here and in my newsletter). Finally, the wines must pass a jury tasting made just prior to the wines going into bottle.
The crus communaux of Muscadet are currently a work in progress, a project that began in the late 1990s and which continues to this day, and there is a plan to submit a dossier on the first four proposed crus to a European Commission committee in June 2011. The wines all originate from the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine appellation, and include Le Cru Gorgeois, a cru proposed by a grouping of 14 vignerons working a small area of the clay and gabbro soils around Gorges. The principal exponent is perhaps André-Michel Brégeon, whose wine is featured here, and for some time Brégeon did label his top cuvée as Gorgeois before back-tracking to Gorges, I think in anticipation of the submission to the European Commission. The Gorgeois wines, if given the green light, will require at least 24 months sur lie, although longer is acceptable. A wine such as this cuvée would have no trouble meeting that particular criterion - the 2004 Gorges cuvée has been sur lie for 64 months - that's more than five years.
I will give more details on Gorgeois and the other proposed crus communaux in my forthcoming guide update, but for now what about this Gorges cuvée? The 2004 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Gorges (bottle no. 9114) from André-Michel Brégeon has a pale, pale hue. And it also has a delightful nose, exuberant, aromatic, just loaded with rocky minerality, backed up by a lemon-lime vibrant richness. There is more of the same on the palate too, which is just bursting with powdery, volcanic minerality, seemingly lending a tangible substance to the palate of the wine, with a gentle texture and fresh, vibrant acidity. But overall this is just explosive with its peppery, tingly richness, dominating every moment of the palate and the finish. Texturally very pleasing too though, with notes of sweet, toothsome melon alongside it all. This is just brilliant. And it has plenty of potential for the future too, such is its balance and vibrant acid structure; I'll be leaving my other bottles in the cellar for a few years. 17.5/20
So this is superb stuff; if it represents the future of Muscadet, then I finish this week's Weekend Wine scribing with a smile on my face. (3/1/11)