Dom. de la Pépière Muscadet S&M s/l Clos des Briords 2009
Well, after two weeks of Vernaccia and Vermentino it is time to get back to the Loire I feel. There will be a few updates concerning Italy coming up following my trip to Tuscany, including updates of my profiles of Fontodi, Fonterutoli and Fèlsina, three leading estates in the Chianti Classico region that have long been favourites of mine, as well as a new mini-guide to Tuscany. This will include my report on A Day Out in Chianti, when I put my contacts book and mobile phone to one side for a while and - foregoing my usual habit of making appointments whenever I visit - setting off in a touristy frame of mind for a day of sightseeing and tasting in what the British like to call Chiantishire. Until then, though, it's time to leave behind all the Montalcino, Montepulciano and Morellino and get back to what I know best - well, know better, anyway - and that's Muscadet.
There have been plenty of developments in Muscadet-land recently, and I'm working hard behind the scenes to get all the relevant pages on Winedoctor up to date. First up, dealing with the appellation itself, the battle to newly define some of the best terroirs and thus develop the viticultural 'worth' of the region (and therefore perhaps stem the tide of vignerons filing for bankruptcy - as discussed in my Loire 2010 report?) continues on. There was partial success recently with the approval of three such terroirs, otherwise known as the crus communaux, Clisson, Le Pallet and Gorges. I write 'partial' for two reasons; firstly, why only three? What happened to the other very valid candidates, such as Goulaine and Château Thébaud? These are still in the pipeline, I believe; I should, of course, by now be used to the glacial pace at which the INAO moves. And secondly, the INAO has indeed gone through with regional rather than terroir-related names, i.e. Clisson rather than Granite de Clisson; I was alerted to this alteration to the original plans by Pierre-Marie Luneau of Luneau-Papin when I met with him in January this year. I think this is a real shame for the Muscadet vignerons as I believe a clearly declared association between a cuvée and the terroir from which it originated would have given a clear purpose to the new crus, as well as enhancing their credibility, and perhaps the credibility of Muscadet as a whole. I suppose the INAO's argument might be that it isn't necessary as all appellations and crus are based on terroir (and we don't have Graves de St Estèphe or Schist de Roches-aux-Moines), nevertheless I feel this has been a missed opportunity.
Next up, some developments that relate specifically to Domaine de la Pépière, and I note that Marc Ollivier has taken on a partner, Rémi Branger. Whereas the label on the 2009 (this week's wine, by the way, as seen above) declares Marc Ollivier to be the proprietor of the domaine in question, the 2010 also has Rémi Branger's name on the label. I also note that Domaine de la Pépière has a website, as well as a blog, both of which are new to me. The latter appears to be largely the work of Rémi, and has been intermittently updated since December 2010. It includes a few photographs of the vineyard work, as well as a short video of 'working the soil'. This rather simple process - which simply involves turning over the top layer of soil between the rows, thereby burying weeds (which enrich the soil as they degrade) and removing surface roots - once held some mystery for me. I would read in French wine journals of le travail du sol, without any indication of what the 'work' in question might be, and it wasn't until I visited Pithon-Paillé - who work their soil using a mini-tractor and a hand-guided plough - that I understood the significance of this process in facilitating organic viticulture.
As I wrote at the top of this page, I will try to update the relevant sections of Winedoctor as soon as possible, and I must also update my Pépière profile with all my notes from his wines tasted in January in Angers (my tasting notes include one for the 2010 Clos des Briords, as well as the 2009 Les Gras Moutons, 2009 Clisson and 2009 Château-Thébaud), but in the meantime here are my thoughts on the 2009 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Clos des Briords from Domaine de la Pépière, tasted just this past weekend. In the glass this wine has a pale yet shimmering hue, and aromatically this is an absolute classic, and immediately puts to bed any notion that this vintage - despite any concerns I may have raised in my Loire 2009 report - might yield only atypical, undrinkable, soft and fuzzy wines. There is salt-brushed fruit, quite rich yet still so evocatively Muscadet, bright and minerally, with scents of lemon, lime and green herbs. There is a similar purity on the palate, which has an immediate confidence, bright and increasingly defined and incisive with subsequent mouthfuls. The acidity has a forthright and crunchy style, with great minerality; it keeps a wonderfully pure and focused style, despite it showing richness and a fine weight in keeping with the warmer vintage, although it is by no means fleshy or over-the-top, and it all culminates in a delectably bitter finish. This is brilliant wine - I love it! 18/20 (8/8/11)