Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine
Château-Thébaud Clos des Morines 2009
What? Me? Biased towards Muscadet? Perish the thought!
I admit it though, I am biased towards the wines of this broadly unloved and misunderstood region. And why shouldn’t I be? The wines offer everything great Chablis (which seems eternally popular) can provide – in a nutshell, wine from a non-aromatic grape variety that expresses terroir beautifully and ages just as well – and yet it remains a niche interest even among many wine professionals, partitioned off as something WSET Diploma candidates have to learn about, but which nobody actually drinks for pleasure.
Well, those in the know certainly drink it for pleasure. If you enjoy vibrant dry white wines with subtle but undeniable texture, pure but gently expressed orchard and citrus fruits, and an array of mineral and savoury sensations depending on the soils of origin, Muscadet could be for you. And, coming back to my Chablis comparison, if it is the Burgundian patchwork-quilt complexity that excites (admittedly not quite as patchwork-like in Chablis as the Côte d’Or, but bear with me) then Muscadet is increasingly defined in the same manner. There are already three crus communaux defined, and today’s wine comes from one of the terroirs certain to be officially ratified as a Muscadet cru in the near future.
Château-Thébaud is not the name of the domaine of origin (that is Domaine de la Pépière, home to Marc Ollivier now assisted by Rémi Branger) nor the vineyard (that is the Clos des Morines) but is in fact a town sitting on the banks of the Maine, as it flows towards the Sèvre, the two joining and ultimately flowing into the Loire. Thus we are deep within the Sèvre et Maine region here, Muscadet’s heartland. The town has given its name to the type of granite upon which it sits, and hence the name of this cru communal in waiting is Château-Thébaud, as all are named for the regional terroir (although note that the INAO forbade actual mention of the soil or rock type – the original plan was for Granite de Château-Thébaud – no doubt this would have been simply too informative). Although I haven’t visited the Clos des Morines, I am told it is very close to the more famed Clos des Briords, which drinkers of the wines of Domaine de la Pépière will be very familiar with. When it comes to Muscadet, granite soils tend to engender structure and longevity in the wine, often with exciting but precise seams of minerals and acid running through the wine. In that respect, this wine doesn’t disappoint.
This is the first vintage of this new cuvée. The 2009 Château-Thébaud Clos des Morines has a good colour in the glass, a very pale hue, correct for the age of this wine, which is only three years old, and the vast majority of that time has been spent sur lie of course (hence no mention of sur lie on the label – see my Muscadet guide for more on that seemingly paradoxical statement). And thereafter there comes a fabulous set of aromas and flavours. Melon de Bourgogne is not an aromatic variety akin to Sauvignon Blanc, and this allows the more minerally aromas to come through with a real force. The aromatics are dominated by suggestions of liquid stone, with bitter pear skin and slightly sweeter suggestions of pear fruit, interwoven with little nuances of ripe citrus fruits. It is pure, bright, defined and very impressive. The palate continues on in the same vein, full and flattering perhaps reflecting the warmer vintage, but with a brilliant stony frame, of chalk and pebbles and gritty minerals. Like all great Muscadets this is a wine that speaks of the rock beneath the vine’s roots rather than fruit or more perfumed scents, and it is stunningly good. Yet there is texture here as well, a concentration and substance that reflects more than just terroir, but also low yields (having checked I see 35 hl/ha was declared) and knowledgeable winemaking. It finishes long, pithy, grippy and savoury, with just a tinge of sourness to it, but mainly it is that fine, stony minerality that shows through. Excellent wine. 18/20 (10/9/12)