Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Château-Thébaud 2014
My reports over the next few weeks are naturally going to be focused on the 2020 vintage in Bordeaux. The stream of samples arriving on my doorstep is beginning to peter out, and yesterday was the first day in a little over three weeks that I didn’t have somewhere between 35 (a quiet day) and 65 (a busy day) wines to taste.
Along the way, however, I have also been dipping into the 2020 vintage in the Loire Valley. Thanks to Covid-19 this has also been through the delivery of samples to my doorstep, often entirely unexpected. Thankfully for my tasting schedule, these samples tended to come in slightly smaller waves than the Bordeaux samples. After all, there is no equivalent of Michel Rolland working in the Loire Valley, eager to parcel up two hundred samples and write my name and address on the package. Sorry, forty packages. Nor is there a Union des Grands Crus de la Val de Loire content to charter a truck to drive all the way from Chinon to Scotland with nothing other than a palette of 2020 samples in the back for me. Maybe that’s a good thing.
All of which means that, while I have had Merlot on my mind a lot in recent days, I haven’t forgotten about the Loire Valley. And it has provided a lot of sweet relief; there is nothing I want more after a day of sixty-plus samples of young Bordeaux than a glass of Muscadet. Nothing – other than perhaps a cool beer – can lift and refresh the palate more. And of course, it is to my favourite maturing cru communal wines I have turned.
Domaine de la Pépière is one of the top names to look out for in the Muscadet region. Briefly, because I should think many readers are already familiar with the domaine, this domaine was built up from a family vineyard covering just 7 hectares by Marc Ollivier, starting in the mid-1980s. He soon acquired up a cult following based on the quality of his wines, his reputation bolstered by a gradual conversion to organic viticulture, and an involvement in the development of the crus communaux system. With time he took on an associate Rémi Branger, and they were joined in more recent years by Gwénaëlle Croix.
Today Marc is retired, and the running of the domaine falls to Rémi and Gwénaëlle, who continue to turn out some superb wines, including at least four (the last time I counted) crus communaux cuvées. This week’s Weekend Wine is from the Château-Thébaud cru, which is located on the red-tinged Granit de Château-Thébaud, which lies in a broad seam to the north of the Granit de Clisson. As with Clisson, it tends to produce a richly structured style which ages well.
The 2014 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Château-Thébaud from Domaine de la Pépière was made at a time when Marc was still at the helm here, and at seven years of age its quality is testament to his work. It displays a pale straw hue in the glass, and readily emits scents of orange peel, apricot, honeysuckle, crushed chalk and white pepper. There is a suggestion of bitterness too; it doesn’t feel like a bright and breezy, sunshine-and-siesta kind of Muscadet. The palate is just fascinating, starting out with a light body but vigorous minerality and acidity at this stage, in a rather punchy style, and although these elements persist in the midpalate there is also a gentle texture here and little nuances of apricot and orange peel fruit, with a touch of crème patisserie. Those mineral and acid veins persist though, producing fabulous energy and drive. It has length too. This would be brilliant with anything fishy in tempura batter, as the acidity would slice through it all like a hot knife through butter. In that context, this wine could be brilliant. It’s not too bad after a solid ten hours of tasting Merlot either. 95/100 (3/5/21)