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Château du Cléray Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Vallet 2014

Château du Cléray Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Vallet 2014

This week, as the countdown to a run of Loire Valley tastings begins, starting with a trip to Angers this weekend, I will be taking a look at one of the region’s most recent success stories. The development of the cru communal system has turned our modern-day perception of Muscadet on its head, and although the origins of this Nantais revolution can be traced back perhaps two decades, it is a revolution that is still ongoing. It is not so much an explosion, more of a slow but brightly burning fuse.

The first three crus to be ratified were signed off in 2011, these being Clisson (a granite terroir), Gorges (where gabbro dominates) and Le Pallet (where the terroir seems rather more variable). I have been expecting the next round of crus, Château-Thébaud (granodiorite, a variant on granite to you and me), Monnières-Saint-Fiacre (mainly gneiss, but you can find amphibolite here too), Goulaine (schist and gneiss) and Mouzillon-Tillières (gabbro again) to be signed off since 2017, but these things seemingly can’t be rushed. I have heard further rumours, as recently as last week, that 2019 will be their year.

Château du Cléray Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Vallet 2014

The wine featured here represents a cru that has only just started the long journey towards ratification. Vallet is located at the eastern end of the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine vineyard, east of Goulaine and north of Mouzillon-Tillières. The terroir here is mostly micaschist, albeit with some inclusions of granite and gneiss; parcels with soils too silty, or too deep, are excluded. My expectation is that yields will be restricted to less than 45 hl/ha, and the wines will require élevage on the lees for perhaps 24 months (this is true of the other crus, excluding Le Pallet which is only 17 months). Only time will tell, and based on prior experiences, I suspect a decade or more will pass before this new cru candidate is fully defined and signed off.

In the meantime, the domaines in this region will continue to produce prototype cuvées, wearing the Vallet name on the label, adhering to their individual understandings of the cru, but without any legal definition. One to do that is Pierre-Jean Sauvion, of Château du Cléray, one of more than twenty domaines working in this zone. The 2014 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Vallet suggests a good concentration in the glass, displaying a richly polished straw-coloured hue. The nose feels attractively ripe and expressive, concentrated and complex, with plenty of sweet and succulent fruit character, reminiscent of peach, tangerine, mango and lychee, all with a lightly dried concentration. The palate, in contrast, is cool and svelte, with a lightly pithy and lightly crystalline feel to the fruit here, which seems convincing, vibrant, concentrated and lightly bitter at the same time. There are nuances of vanilla flower, primrose and honeysuckle scents which run right through to the end. All in all, a fresh and bright, with a fine length. A very fine effort, which, I feel, bodes well for the development of this cru. 94/100

Tomorrow, and the following day, I will explore more established crus, with a two-part series of Muscadet cru tastings. (28/1/19)

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