The Granites of the Nantais
The Nantais stands apart from the other main regions of the Loire Valley in that there is no one defining rock here. The Central Vineyards not to mention the leading appellations of Touraine and Saumur all champion limestone, and regardless of all the spilite, quartz and phthanite complexities found in Anjou, this region is most famed for its schist. Here in the Nantais, however, many the interlocking geological jigsaw that is the Massif Armoricain gives the vignerons many different terroirs to work with, all of which bring something different to the table. Granite can bring structure, gabbro can bring acidity and energy, amphibolite can bring a light-footed vigour, each one creating wines of equal interest and value.
So where should any examination of the region’s geology and its impact on wine begin?
There is no right or wrong choice, but it seems to me that granite is the obvious place to start. It is granite that has given me some of the best experiences with Muscadet over the years, and while in many cases this was with relevant cru communal wines (which I will explore in more detail in my pages on the Muscadet Crus Communaux) it was also with any number of wines wearing the traditional Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie appellation, such as Clos des Briords (more recently simplified to Briords) from Marc Ollivier (pictured below) at Domaine de la Pépière. Granite has also provided some of the best examples of aged Muscadet I have encountered, with the L d’Or from Domaine Luneau-Papin (which comes from a mix of granite and gneiss terroirs, admittedly) drinking well at twenty or even thirty years of age.
So it is with granite we begin, but I will not focus on it exclusively, as its sister rock granodiorite also deserves consideration here. Other forms of igneous rock such as gabbro and rhyolite, however, I will leave for the next instalment of this guide.