Gorges: The Gabbro Paragon
The waters of the Sèvre – or the Sèvre Nantaise to give it its full and correct name – accelerate as they flow through Clisson, passing with urgency over the weir and beneath the Medieval bridge around which the town is centred. The river then broadens once more, the turbulent waters returning to their original languid state. Before they reach the river’s union with the Loire they will flow over a dozen weirs and beneath many more bridges, and they will even pass through the river’s only operational lock, at Vertou. But that is a long way downstream, 24 kilometres as the salmon swims, and long before the waters reach that point they reach Gorges, a mere two kilometres downriver. Gorges is, alongside Clisson, one of the most revered communes of the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine appellation, and one of the first to have its cru communal status ratified in 2011.
The towns of Gorges and Clisson, which are situated so close to one another that their respective suburbs have long fused into one broad sweep of houses, provide many contrasts. While Clisson is gathered around its 14th-century bridge, Gorges is positioned just to the south of the river, on higher land, its tall church spire visible for miles around. Only a watermill (pictured below), which over the years has been put to use in the grinding of wheat and the production of paper, and is today a working museum, sits on the river. Clisson often feels busy, its ancient fortress and Italianate architecture drawing in tourists like moths to a flame. Gorges, however, feels much quieter, its streets as peaceful as the gentle meandering of the Sèvre Nantaise below.
The wines of Gorges and Clisson also deserve some joint consideration. Clisson I have described as granite’s Beau Idéal, the perfect example of what can be achieved with one of the region’s most desirable terroirs, the great seam of grey granite which runs beneath the town and surrounding vineyards. Gorges, however, casts the spotlight onto another of the region’s most desirable terroirs, which is gabbro. While gabbro crops up in other corners of the Muscadet region (just as granite crops up outside Clisson), it is here that we see most clearly what can be achieved with Melon de Bourgogne grown on this most curious of igneous rocks.
In this guide I examine the cru communal that has been defined around the gabbro of Gorges, looking at the rocks, soils, wines and vignerons found here. First, however, I begin with a little history pertaining to the town and its vineyards.