Michel Delhommeau Muscadet Sèvre & Maine sur lie
Clos Armand 2010
One of the great joys in wine is that there is always something new waiting to be discovered. This old cliché is often spoken with reference to the next vintage, as if there was ever a hope of anyone developing such a comprehensive understanding of wine that the only unknown lay in the future and not the present. Such an idea is, of course, nothing short of farcical. Having specialised in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley for more than a handful of years now, I still feel I am only scratching the surface of either. Every time I travel to the Loire Valley, or go to a Loire tasting, I find myself meeting vignerons I have never met before, sometimes vignerons I have never even heard of. It’s the same with Bordeaux; there is a comfortable familiarity to the region – it presents us with the same few hundred wines every time the primeurs comes around – but let’s not kid ourselves this is anything more than a crumb of what the region produces.
Even drilling down on one region I keep chancing upon previously undiscovered territory. Having met, tasted with and profiled the likes of Guy Bossard, Pierre Luneau-Papin, Jo Landron, Bruno Cormerais, Véronique Günther-Chéreau, Marc Pesnot, Marc Ollivier and quite a few others some might think I have got the main bases in Muscadet covered. In fact, I am still just getting started. Earlier in 2015 I tasted with Rémi Bonnet of Bonnet-Huteau, and found a really enticing array of wines, all made with full adherence to biodynamic philosophies. It was a great discovery for me. This same year I also met Vincent Caillé for the first time, a guy with a range of wines to really challenge the top tier in the region. Vincent is proof that you (and I) must never trust the accepted hierarchy in any wine region. And now, again almost by chance, in Michel Delhommeau I have come across another name worth knowing about in Muscadet. Sometimes I feel all at sea, but it is worth it. In fact, when it comes to wine, maybe that’s part of the fun.
Michel Delhommeau is a third-generation vigneron who took over from his parents in 1988, so he now has something like thirty years of viticultural experience. Having first shifted the domaine towards lutte raisonnée, he then bit the bullet and committed his 28 hectares of vineyards to organic viticulture starting in 2011. The domaine is located in the commune of Monnières, which sits close to Gorges (to the southeast) and Saint-Fiacre (to the west). The soils here are therefore, unsurprisingly in view of these relationships, a mix of gabbro and gneiss. The harvest is partly by machine, not unusual in this part of the world, with some hand-picking reserved for his older vines. Thereafter the fermentations are fairly straightforward, with the fruit pressed, allowed to settle, then vinified at cool temperatures. The range of wines produced is quite broad; that featured here, the 2010 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Clos Armand, comes from a clos in Monnières with gabbro soils.
In the glass the wine shows a very pale hue, very typical for the appellation. The aromatics take a little while to come together, but there is plenty of interest here, kicking off with pear skin, thyme and a preserved lemon richness, combined with a powdery-perfumed hint of salty, volcanic minerals. These latter elements become more apparent with time in the glass, following the fruit which comes out first. It has a cool, acid-driven palate, at first biting and really quite challenging, showing a somewhat raw acidity and intensely mineral character. Like the nose, however, it needs a little time to show its true charms. There is an attractive crushed-pear and slightly-sour apple character, with more enticing salty edges as suggested by the nose, with a rather appealing bitter pithiness too. It has vibrant acidity, keeping it tense, with a long, dry pithy finish. It is an interesting, uncompromising style, and it would be interesting to see how it ages. It would also be interesting to investigate the rest of Michel’s wines; I’ll just add his name to the list. 15.5/20 (7/12/15)