Schist in the Nantais
Much of the character of schist I describe in great detail in my guide to the schists of L’Anjou Noir, a region where it is by far the predominant rock. Here in the Nantais schist has a smaller part to play, nevertheless it is still an important part, and one which cannot be ignored. Not least because one of the region’s figureheads saw fit to create one of the greatest examples of cru communal Muscadet (or cru communal prototype, as it was) there has ever been using fruit from the schists of Goulaine, in a northern corner of the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine appellation.
Pierre Luneau-Papin (pictured above) had already made his mark on the little world of wine with Le L d’Or, a cuvée he first released in the 1976 vintage. This first release was still brilliantly fresh at 36 years of age, when I last tasted it with Pierre, back in 2012. Le L d’Or is a traditionally aged sur lie Muscadet, which meant (at the time – the rules have since changed slightly) that it had been bottled the year following the harvest, at the very latest before November 30th.
During the latter years of the 20th century, however, many vignerons were looking to develop a cru system, one which reflected the diverse geology, landscape and terroir of the Muscadet region. It was partly an initiative to more precisely define the region’s vineyard by the very people who knew it needed it, but it was also a route to changing Muscadet’s image, which in some markets had been in free-fall since the 1970s. Pierre Luneau-Papin was not immune to this shift in culture, and he looked to his family’s vines around La Chapelle-Heulin as a potential source of a cru prototype. From vines at Les Noëlles they fashioned a cuvée which they named Excelsior, and they came up with Schistes de Goulaine as a potential name for the new cru communal.