Famille Lieubeau, Crus Communaux, 2016

A key feature of the renaissance in Muscadet, which I have been fortunate enough to witness (with my eyes, as well as my taste buds), has been the recognition that this is not a homogenous region, turning out only one style and one level of quality. When in the region a few years back I visited the Maison des Vins de Nantes and met François Robin, Loire Atlantique director for InterLoire. He told me (and I am paraphrasing here – my notes are long buried under a pile of Bordeaux primeur booklets, tasting notebooks and empty bottles);

“We don’t want people to think of Muscadet as a wine, we would rather
people think of it as a vineyard”.

This might not make immediate sense to everybody (I know my first reaction was along the lines of ‘huh?’) but in essence François wanted (I think) to encourage a more granulated and tiered view of the region. Muscadet is still struggling to shake off that ubiquitous, bargain-basement, battery-acid image, but with effort this commonly-held view could one day be a thing of the past. In the same way that Chablis can mean many different styles, from cool and crisp entry-level wines to the grands crus of Raveneau and Dauvissat, wines to rival the very best from the Côte d’Or, the word Muscadet could one day mean something similar to wine drinkers. It might be a glass of something cheap and cheerful, a daily drinker. Or it might be one of the new cru communal wines, more exciting, more minerally, broader and more polished.

Famille Lieubeau

It will take a long time to bear fruit, but I think this cru communal quality-orientated approach is the right one. This is a region of complex and varied terroir, and an internal understanding of this complexity has led growers to push for the creation of the upmarket crus communaux. In many cases they have created these crus themselves, from within the appellation, with prototype cuvées. It was work such as this that led to the ratification of Gorges (on gabbro rock), Clisson (a grey, hard granite) and Le Pallet (more varied, but dominated by granite, gneiss and orthogneiss) in 2011. The soon-to-be-ratified (I hope) crus of Château-Thébaud (known for a pink, more friable granite), Monnières St Fiacre (gneiss and orthogneiss), Goulaine (schist) and Sanguèze (gabbro again) will add further fuel to the crus communaux fire.

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