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Château du Cléray Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Cuvée de Garde 2002

This week's wine provides me with an opportunity to take a quick look at a well-regarded producer that I haven't yet had a chance to profile on Winedoctor; I am referring to the Sauvion family, of Château du Cléray, which is situated just outside Vallet to the southeast of Nantes.

Chateau du Cléray Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Cuvée de Garde 2002The Sauvions arrived here in 1935, in the shape of Yves and Jean-Ernest, although today it is Pierre-Jean, Yves' son, who is in charge. Perhaps one of the longest-established domaines in all the Nantais, the château came complete with ancient vaulted cellars. The vineyards acccount for 38 hectares, most of which are within the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine appellation, both rivers flowing to the southwest of the estate before their union just before Portillon, not long before the waters flow into the Loire itself at Nantes. They are naturally planted up with Melon de Bourgogne, Muscadet's grape, although there is also 1 hectare of Chardonnay and 1.8 hectares of Gros Plant.

The Sauvion/Cléray portfolio is divided into four, with the Ligne Haute Culture providing perhaps the most interesting wines. The other lines are led by the Ligne Tradition, which includes further examples of Muscadet, but also a broad selection of négoce wines from Anjou-Saumur and Touraine, and then there are the Fildefere and Vins de Cépage lines, which include a variety of vin de pays wines not only from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but also vines as diverse as Merlot and Syrah. But for Muscadet, stick with the Haute Culture wines; this one, Cléray-Sauvion's Cuvée de Garde, is intended to upset the accepted but false wisdom that Muscadet is a wine to be drunk young. It does a very good job of that. Fermented en cuve with temperature-control, dry and savoury, with an eventual residual sugar of just 2 g/l, in the better vintages (such as 2002) Sauvion would advocate ageing this wine for as long as 20 years. I would once have scoffed at such a suggestion; these days I know better. Having tasted a number of wines from this appellation with more than a decade behind them, and even some from the likes of Pierre Luneau-Papin and Jo Landron with more than two decades under their belt, I know this is true.

The Château du Cléray Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Cuvée de Garde 2002 has a moderately coloured, lemon-gold hue in keeping with the style and age. The nose has elements of fresh salt, chalky-stony minerals and soft, sherbetty, volcanic rocks. Alongside all these characteristics there are notes of citrus pith, thyme, smoke, seashells and more. This is delightful! It is perhaps a little reticent at first, but it is really opening out after an hour or two to reveal all of these nuanced flavours. The palate is fresh, cool, defined and very well framed by powerful, slightly sour, mouth-watering acidity. Overall this is simply delicious - particularly because of that interplay between the juicy but sour-edged fruit and the firm acidity. Very good indeed, and I would contend that this is, indeed, a cuvée de garde - there's another ten years in this, at least. 17+/20 (20/7/09)

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