Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Trois 2009
The year is drawing to a close, and it seems only natural to 'go out' on a Loire. In some previous years I have looked back over all my weekend wines to see what I have been drinking, and which regions have dominated, the idea being - with my tongue in my cheek, admittedly - to ensure I maintained my focus on the Loire Valley, and to a lesser extent Bordeaux. There's no real need for me to do this though; my cellar is naturally rich in the wines of the Loire Valley (they account for well over 40% of my cellar last time I checked) and my weekend wines will always reflect this. This year I have focused on 2009 and 2010 Chinon from Bernard Baudry, Philippe Alliet and Couly-Dutheil, and have featured new wines from Lionel Gosseaume, Mark Angeli, Noëlla Morantin, Pithon-Paillé as well as looking back to older vintages from Domaine Huet and others. I guess the Loire has had its fair share of the limelight; if anyone should doubt this, maybe my recent 2013 Loire Reflections blog post will convince you.
And so to Domaine de la Pépière, and a wine I first tasted a few years ago, from cuve. Now in bottle, these arrived on my doorstep barely a week ago, and I could see no reason why I should tuck all of them away in the cellar. One was duly sacrificed, and it went down very well in combination with some home-made crab cakes, spiced up with slivers of ginger, lemongrass, garlic, spring onion and coriander. On Christmas Day, truth be told; well, smoked salmon isn't for everybody.
The cuvée in question is a lees-aged wine made from fruit grown on Granite de Clisson, and it takes its name from the fact that the finished wine is aged sur lie for three years before bottling. There seems to be a fair amount of confusion regarding the name Trois, and amusingly I have now seen two alternative but incorrect explanations for the name put forward. The first is that the wine has only 3 g/l of residual sugar; this, put forward by a big-name wine writer, is most certainly wrong. The second is that the wine comes from three terroirs - which I assume would be the two granites of Clisson and Château-Thébaud, and the gneiss of Saint-Fiacre, where Marc Ollivier and Rémi Branger, proprietors of Domaine de la Pépière, also own some vines. This theory, put forward by a French merchant, is no less untrue than the residual sugar story; Rémi tells me that the fruit is sourced from both types of granite, two-thirds from Château-Thébaud and one-third from Clisson, with no mention of gneiss at all. I do wonder whether Remi or Marc have been giving different explanations to various writers and merchants as a joke - unlikely, but I will have to check with them when I next meet up with them in February.
So on with the wine, the Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Trois 2009; in case you are wondering about why this has no sur lie designation, three years on the lees is (weirdly) too long to be called sur lie - wines have to be bottled before the end of November following the harvest, with occasional special dispensation to bottle later if required (if I remember correctly, Jo Landron told me earlier this year that dispensation has been given in the 2012 vintage, extending the limit from November to December 2013, reflecting the high quality of the wines in my opinion). In the glass the wine has a pale, straw-gold hue. There is a firm and confident nose, full of citrus fruit with a tense and pithy quality. There follows a remarkably broad character on the palate, the overall feel very structured, with some compact fruit, bright tingling acidity, and piles of substance. This has the breadth I would expect from 2009, but there is fine grip and acid behind it as well. This is very primary right now though; it needs a few years - perhaps even many years - in the cellar to reveal its true potential. 17.5/20 (30/12/13)