Domaine Saint Nicolas
There can hardly be a wine-drinking soul in the world who has not heard of Muscadet, the iconic, famous (although in some circles the wines are misunderstood, and more likely to be thought of as infamous) white wine from the vineyards that surround the city of Nantes, close to the mouth of the Loire as it heads for the Atlantic Ocean. But look a little further south and you will find a small collection of oft-overlooked vineyards that make up the Fiefs Vendéens appellation. Having been hampered by their classification as vin délimité de qualité supérieure for many years, 2011 saw the vineyards reclassified and reordered. These vineyards are now of appellation contrôlée status, with five communal appellations as denoted by the Brem, Mareuil, Pissotte, Vix and Chantonnay suffixes. But is it all too little, too late? Is there anybody still tending their vines in this long-forgotten appellation?
Happily yes, although they are perhaps the exception rather than the rule. Take the communal appellation of Fiefs Vendéens Brem, centred around the coastal town of Brem-sur-Mer, as an example. This was once a bustling wine town, with over 100 vignerons extolling the virtues of their 300 hectares of vines, but that is certainly no longer the case. In an all-too-familiar story, Brem-sur-Mer is a wine town that has been in decline for many years. The older generations gave up or shuffled on, and the young have not been keen to pick up the secateurs and hygrometers in their place. There is, quite simply, more lucrative and less back-breaking work elsewhere. From those 100 vignerons that once resided here, just one family remains; this clan is headed by Thierry Michon, and he is patron of Domaine Saint Nicolas. This does not mean he has the appellation to himself, of course; there are still other domaines in production, dotted here and there outside the village. But it does put Thierry and his family in a rather unique position, their domaine going some way to defining what this appellation is. Or what it should be, at least.